Battling the Morning Sickness Blues
The excitement and joy of pregnancy, undoubtedly calls for a huge celebration. All the same, the agonising pangs of morning sickness may prove a deterrent, spoiling all the good fun. Unfortunately, 50 to 80% of women on the threshold of motherhood undergo the sheer torment of throwing up and feeling sick throughout the day. However, within 12 to 16 weeks of pregnancy, this anguish is sure to end and the countdown begins for the new arrival.
[Also Read: What is Morning Sickness & Its Symptoms]
Causes of Morning sickness
Although researchers are yet to find the cause of morning sickness, it is most likely due to a combination of factors. Perhaps, Morning sickness occurs, due to the rapid changes taking place in the body during pregnancy.
Increased hormone levels play a very important role in producing morning sickness. Progesterone, a hormone in the body, makes the muscles relax. Relaxation of muscles also includes those of the digestive system, which lead to slow digestive process, producing excessive stomach acids inducing nausea.
The escalating Progesterone levels in the body, protecting the uterus lining, enable the body to prepare for pregnancy. Increased levels of this hormone constrict easy movement in the oesophagus, abdomen and small intestine making the acid seep into the oesophagus, causing heartburn which in turn produces nausea.
Another hormone responsible for bouts of morning sickness is the female hormone estrogens, which rise considerably during early pregnancy. Estrogen levels may be 100 times higher during pregnancy, compared to levels found in women who are not pregnant. Another pregnancy hormone beta HCG is also considered a cause of morning sickness, although the precise reason for the increased production remains a mystery. However, this hormone is correlated to the development of the placenta during the first trimester of the pregnancy.
Another reason for morning sickness is said to be a ‘weak stomach’. A general idea is that women with weak stomach endure the agony of morning sickness, especially during the first three months, a time when the symptoms appear severe. The severity of the morning sickness is said to be due to a bacterium in the stomach called helicobacter pylori, although there is no sufficient evidence to prove the cause.
Low blood sugar and low blood pressure are also one of the main factors correlated with morning sickness. During pregnancy, there is a tendency for the blood sugar levels to drop down in the morning. Therefore, to maintain healthy sugar levels, it is essential to eat small frequent meals at regular intervals. Likewise low blood pressure has a nauseating effect on most people including those who are not pregnant. With the progesterone having a relaxing effect during pregnancy, there is an increased tendency to throw up and feel nauseous.
With an imbalance in electrolytes, the symptoms of morning sickness tend to worsen. Nausea that results in poor intake of food often makes the imbalance worse, becoming a vicious cycle.
Vitamin B Deficiency
According to certain studies, a deficiency in vitamin B may be another contributing factor for morning sickness. Although the research is not yet conclusive, it is ascertained that consumption of adequate quantities of vitamin B6 may ease the symptoms providing immense relief, preventing nausea.
Some researchers ascertain that certain women are psychologically inclined to having nausea and vomiting during pregnancy as an abnormal response to stress.
Evolutionary adaptation is a change that occurs in an organism in order to make it better adapted to its environment. Certain studies indicate that morning sickness may be the result of an evolutionary adaptation to protect women and their baby from food poisoning.
Pregnant women with morning sickness prefer foods with a low risk of contamination, such as bread and crackers avoiding foods that can potentially become contaminated, such as meat, poultry and eggs.
There are a number of factors contributing towards possibility of complications.
- A family history of morning sickness
- First pregnancy
- Nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy
- A history of motion sickness
- A history of nausea while using contraceptives containing estrogen
- Severe and prolonged nausea and vomiting
- A serious condition known as Ketosis caused by increased levels of blood ketones in the form of poisonous acidic chemicals. Ketones occur when the body is breaking down fat, rather than glucose, for energy.
- Weight loss
- Obesity, with the body mass index (BMI) exceeding 30.
- Dark-coloured urine and not passing urine for more than eight hours
- Hypotension (low blood pressure) especially when standing up
- Spells of weakness or feeling faint
- Abdominal pain
- High temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
- Increased heart rate
- Vomiting blood
- Undue stress
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)
Severe nausea and vomiting that persist throughout pregnancy is known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) a condition that may require hospitalisation and treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids and anti-nausea medications.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Due to dehydration caused by excessive vomiting and nausea, there is an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) with a possibility of a blood clot in one of the veins in the body, such as the leg.
Placenta is an organ that joins the mother with the unborn baby providing nutrition, food and oxygen to the foetus. In multiple pregnancies such as twins and triplets, or as in the case of molar pregnancy, there is an enlargement of the placenta because of an abnormal growth of cells within the womb.
Treatment Options: How to Control Morning Sickness?
To alleviate symptoms of morning sickness a number of lifestyle and dietary changes are often recommended.
Smart Food Choice
Easily digestible carbohydrate rich foods, low in fat may prove helpful. Salty foods are sometimes said to be helpful, and it is important to avoid spicy, fat laden oily foods.
An empty stomach may aggravate nausea, therefore it is advisable to have a couple of biscuits or toast before getting out of bed. Taking frequent snacks throughout the day is important rather than taking three large meals.
It is essential to remain hydrated as dehydration may cause complications. Hence, drinking plenty of fluids and carrying a bottle of water everywhere, besides, avoiding consumption of alcohol and caffeine may prove beneficial.
Avoid foods or smells that seem to worsen the symptoms of nausea.
Taking prenatal vitamins may produce nausea. In order to prevent the symptoms taking them at night or with a snack may help largely. Sucking hard on a sugar candy or taking Chewing gum after taking the vitamins may also prove useful.
Getting plenty of rest is vital as tiredness can make the nausea worse
Taking a daily walk outdoors and getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine vitamins, helps absorb nausea reducing magnesium.
Brushing the Teeth
Avoid brushing the teeth immediately after eating as this can cause vomiting.
Anti Sickness Medication (antiemetic)
Persistent nausea and vomiting despite changes in diet and lifestyle may require a course of antiemetic (anti-sickness medicine) that is safe to use during pregnancy to prevent vomiting.
Some women find the Acupressure wristbands available without a prescription in most pharmacies helpful.
Acupuncture involving insertion of thin needles into the skin is not a proven way to treat morning sickness, although some women find it effective.
For some women Herbal ginger supplements, seem to alleviate symptoms of morning sickness. Although most research suggests that ginger can be used safely during pregnancy, there is some concern regarding the safety of ginger as it is said to affect foetal sex hormones. (Read more about benefits of ginger)
Although there is little research on the topic, some women have found relief from morning sickness through hypnosis.
Yoga and Breathing Exercises
Yoga is very beneficial while pregnant, encouraging relaxation using a series of asana or postures that conjoin mind and body, relieving nausea and tension. Many expectant mothers are successful with the use of breathing exercises, for decreasing the pangs of nausea.
To nurture a healthy growing baby, be sure to get plenty of love and support from people around and remember this temporary anguish heralds the arrival of a bonny baby- well worth the pain!