Nausea, queasiness and vomiting during pregnancy, also commonly referred to as morning sickness (nausea gravidarum), it happens to the best of us when carrying our little ones.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about 80 percent of women will experience the symptoms of nausea and vomiting at some time during a pregnancy. Why is such a wonderful time accompanied by such unpleasant feelings? How long will it last? Can I help keep it at bay or stop it altogether?
You may be wondering some of these things and in the following, we will address the causes of nausea, how long you can expect it to last and some ways of preventing it.
Nausea and the feelings of queasiness during pregnancy is often called “morning-sickness” because it often creeps up on us in shortly after waking. This term is misleading because many of us experience bouts of vomiting or nausea throughout the day or only in the afternoon or evening. Some of us will experience only nausea, while about 33% will have nausea accompanied by vomiting. Whatever the case, it need only be endured for a short while. For most women, it lasts roughly for most of the first trimester until about 20 weeks in gestation. For a handful of us, it may last throughout the entire pregnancy. It is also usually most severe during a first pregnancy. A little over thirty percent of women report reduced nausea or altogether absence of nausea in subsequent pregnancies. One shouldn’t take this queasiness as a sign that something is wrong with our child. Indeed it is quite the opposite. Morning sickness is usually a good sign that we have hormone levels high enough to sustain a healthy pregnancy that will extend beyond the first trimester.
What Causes Nausea During Pregnancy?
Unfortunately, the roots of pregnancy nausea can’t currently be pinpointed. There is speculation that the source of it stems from a combination of increased hormone levels, physical changes and increased stress. During pregnancy, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), estrogen and progesterone are all being produced at much higher levels. The increased levels of HCG tend to subside at the end of the first trimester, which has often been the reason doctors and researchers point in its direction as the primary queasiness causer.
However, your sense of smell and taste are often much stronger during pregnancy, affecting the way we experience food and our environment and foods we formerly enjoyed can now taste abhorrent. I love garlic, but during my first pregnancy, I could not stand the taste or smell of it. Unfortunately, I lived in a country where garlic is a main staple of the local diet and it seemed to seep from people’s pores, leaving a bus or subway ride a very unpleasant experience for my pregnant self.
Likewise, your body is going through physical and emotional changes too. Your muscles relax and stretch to make room for your growing baby. You may feel that your changing body is betraying you. You may not feel like yourself. You may experience stress, anxiety, and fear during this time and all of these feelings can exacerbate your nausea, cause vomiting and affect food aversions.
Occasionally, extreme pregnancy nausea, or hyperemesis gravidarum affecting 1 in every 200 women, can be caused by medical conditions that are usually attributed to carrying multiples, carrying a baby thought to have trisomy 21 (down’s syndrome), a fetus with triploidy, an infant with gestational trophoblastic disease or the condition of hydrops fetalis.
All of these things or none of these things may cause pregnancy nausea. We don’t really know. One theory I do find interesting is that pregnancy nausea is a built in survival instinct that keeps us from ingesting food or other substances that could prove toxic to our rapidly growing babies, especially during the first trimester when the infant is more sensitive to harmful materials.
When Should I Be Concerned?
For women who do experience vomiting, episodes once to three times a day are considered normal. If you are experiencing vomiting beyond three times a day, it would be wise to contact your care provider. Similarly, you should contact your doctor or midwife if you experience the following signs:
- Your morning sickness seems to worsen even when using nausea preventives.
- You are still experiencing nausea after the 5 month mark.
- You lose more than 5% of your pre-pregnancy body weight.
- You cannot keep food or drink down and are vomiting more than thrice a day.
- Your vomit is tinged with blood or looks like coffee grounds.
What Can I Do To Stop Pregnancy Nausea?
There are a variety of ways you can cure nausea in early pregnancy and interestingly enough, a lot of them have to do with nourishing your body at specific times with specific foods. The following are some tips to keep the nausea and morning sickness at bay:
- Keep a glass of water and a small amount of bland food on your bedside table, like crackers or dry cereal. Hunger can trigger nausea, so eating whenever you wake up during the night to pee or first thing in the morning before getting out of bed can keep the queasiness at bay.
- Stock your purse with nuts, crackers and cheese sticks for the same reasons. We have busy lives and can forget to eat when we are out and about. Usually, a tiny amount of one of these bland, protein rich foods can ease our spurts of nausea.
- Graze, don’t gorge! Eating smaller, more frequent meals can keep your blood sugar level, keep your stomach full enough that stomach acid won’t irritate the lining (a nausea culprit), and are more readily digestible.
- Gentle exercise, such as prenatal yoga or relaxed walking can help your food digest more easily, preventing nausea.
- Try top natural nausea squelches like ginger and peppermint. You can drink ginger ale (the natural kind with real ginger works great), make fresh ginger tea, chew ginger gum, suck ginger candies, or nibble ginger cookies. Peppermint tea, peppermint candies or gums and even a few drops of peppermint oil on the wrist to sniff can also be a great nausea stopper.
- Acupressure bands used for sea sickness can also help prevent nausea, especially if you are busy and on the move.
- Take your prenatal vitamins at night. If you suspect they are contributing to your episodes of queasiness, take them when you will be sleeping, when it is less likely to bother you.
- If you require a fast remedy to both heartburn and morning sickness, try taking supplements like PregEase which contains Vitamin B6 and ginger to reduce nausea as well as calcium carbonate, brown seaweed, and deglycyrrhizinated licorice root to help soothe heartburn.
- If you find yourself one of the few women experiencing extreme nausea (hyperemesis gravidarum) your doctor may also be able to prescribe a medication to help the symptoms abate.
Nausea can complicate the first few months of pregnancy, especially for those of us who have busy, hectic lives. However, following some of these tips, making sure you have rest, proper nourishment rich in protein and bland carbohydrates, and reminding yourself that you are not alone, your baby is well, and that you will soon have relief, should help you sail through to a less queasy part of your pregnancy.