If you’ve just found out you’re expecting, congratulations! If you haven’t experienced any nausea or queasiness yet, it might just be on its way (according to the American Pregnancy Association, morning sickness starts at around six weeks).
Here are all the facts, plus a few natural remedies that can help.
Morning sickness fast facts:
- The main symptoms are nausea or vomiting.
- It can occur at any time of the day or night – not just in the morning.
- It can start as early as the fourth week (the average time is around six weeks) and usually (but not always) subsides by week 13.
- It affects an estimated 80% of women.
- The severity of morning sickness varies from woman to woman.
- Unless your weight plummets and you can’t keep any food or liquid down, the chances of your baby being affected are slim.
What’s normal, what’s not?
Family physician Dr Carolyn Lane offers some insights into morning sickness: “A bit of nausea is actually a good sign, and may be associated with better pregnancy outcomes. If the pregnancy is developing normally, and all the pregnancy hormones are there, you’re more likely to experience some NVP (Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy).
“If you’re vomiting so much that you become dehydrated and your electrolytes are off balance, it can potentially be harmful.” Importantly, if the vomit contains blood, is accompanied by pain or fever, or persists well into the second trimester (after the week 13), see your gynaecologist. “Women need to discuss their symptoms with their caregiver and work together to try to reduce nausea and vomiting,” adds Dr Lane.
Hyperemisis gravidarum (HG)
This severe form of morning sickness is rare, but those who have experienced it, often report feeling completely isolated. They also feel that HG is debilitating as it can last as long as the entire duration of the pregnancy. The Dutchess of Cambridge experienced HG in all three of her pregnancies and had to be monitored carefully as it can cause rapid weight loss, dehydration and a build-up of toxins in the blood or urine called ketosis.
What can you do?
Try to implement a few small changes to your diet and lifestyle. For example, research has shown that eating smaller quantities of food throughout the day and getting enough rest may help ease morning sickness.
Dr Lane says, “There’s no hard and fast rule about what you should eat to avoid nausea. You must follow your own cues – this may mean sticking to carbohydrates like bread and fresh fruit and vegetables, if this is all you can stomach.” Lane adds that Sea Bands, which are acupressure waistbands worn to relieve seasickness, have been shown to be effective for morning sickness, so they’re worth a try.
8 ways to beat morning sickness
- Smoking can aggravate nausea, so avoid standing close to smokers when they’re smoking.
- Eat frequent, small meals.
- Speak to your GP or gynaecologist about which iron supplements you can take safely during pregnancy. This is because the iron contained in a general supplement can upset your stomach.
- Drink plenty of fluids between meals.
- Avoid spicy and fatty foods.
- Avoid foods with strong aromas.
- Eating cold foods or foods at room temperature can help.
- Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, such as tea, coffee or cola.
How vitamin B6 can help
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended the usefulness of vitamin B6 in controlling morning sickness. Although it’s not clear how it works, research studies reveal that extra doses of this vitamin could help to relieve queasiness. The dose commonly recommended for easing nausea and vomiting is 10 to 25mg, three times a day, but always speak to your doctor before taking supplements.
Morning, noon and night
It’s recommended that taking your time getting out of bed in the morning can also help. If you’re feeling really sick, try to eat a little food as you wake up or just before getting out of bed. Prepare the snack the night before or ask your husband or partner to bring it to you.
Before going to bed, try to eat a sandwich or a snack like cereal, milk, bread or yoghurt. Should you wake up during the night, try another snack, as this may prevent nausea in the morning. And, preferably, sleep with your windows open.
Helpful dos and don’ts
- Exercise regularly
- Eat plain crackers 15 minutes before rising
- Avoid places that are too warm
- Eat watermelon, drink lemonade, or sniff lemons or ginger
- Eat salty potato chips before a meal to settle your stomach
- Take a calcium supplement and probiotics.
- Drink fluids with meals
- Lie down after eating
- Skip meals.
If you’ve tried everything and still suffer severely, speak to your gynaecologist for advice and help as there are a few safe medicines you can take during pregnancy.
Beth Cooper Howell is a freelance journalist based in the Eastern Cape. She has a keen interest in holistic health and progressive parenting. She has written a book on breastfeeding, enjoys interviewing experts on cutting-edge parenting topics and believes that nothing beats being barefoot in the veld.