A study, conducted by two Cornell University evolutionary biologists, and published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, found that mild to moderate morning sickness is nature’s way of protecting mothers and unborn babies from food-borne illness, as well as shielding the developing baby from harmful chemicals. These findings, the researchers said, can help explain why some mothers develop aversions to foods, such as meats, certain vegetables and caffeine.
“Morning sickness is a complete misnomer,” said professor Paul Sherman, co-author of the report, Morning Sickness: A Mechanism for Protecting Mother and Embryo. “[It] doesn’t occur just in the morning, but at any time during the waking hours, and it’s not a sickness in the pathological sense. We should change the name to wellness insurance.”
The two researchers analysed hundreds of studies that covered tens of thousands of pregnancies, and reported that this is the body’s way to preserve the wellness of the mother at a time when your immunity is naturally suppressed. At the same time, it helps protect the developing baby at a critical time.
A follow-up study, conducted by Canadian researchers, led by Dr Gideon Koren and published in the Journal of Reproductive Toxicology, found that those who experienced the typical symptoms of morning sickness had fewer miscarriages and gave birth to healthier babies. Only 6.4% of the more than 850 000 pregnant women monitored had premature births; compared to 9.5% of women who didn’t experience morning sickness, and had premature births.
The researchers found that those who did not experience any symptoms of morning sickness were between three to 10 times more likely to miscarry within the first trimester, compared to their counterparts. Babies born to those mothers with morning sickness were less likely to have birth defects, be born prematurely, or have a low birthweight. These babies also scored higher on IQ tests when aged between three and seven years, according to the study that spanned over 10 years.
Morning sickness is caused by a rapid increase of the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin, which is released by the placenta during the first trimester. Mild to moderate morning sickness is what provides the protective measure, which is particularly beneficial to women aged 35 and older. However, you need to keep your doctor or caregiver informed regarding your morning sickness, particularly if the symptoms are severe, as this can be a cause for concern.
Tips for handling morning sickness
- Eat small meals throughout the day
- Drink lots of water
- Nibble on candied/crystalised ginger and peppermints; drink ginger tea or eat ginger biscuits
- Keep a packet of salty or plain crackers on hand
- Rest up.