Despite the fact that it is predominantly worse in the morning, morning sickness can strike at any time of the day and last all day long. While not exactly a "sickness" in the usual sense of the word - as it usually happens to healthy women who bear healthy babies – morning sickness is a difficult queasy and nauseous time that affects up to 90 percent of pregnant women.
What causes morning sickness?
The queasiness usually starts at around six weeks but can also begin at four weeks. Sometimes it's the first tell-tale sign you're pregnant. It peaks at around 9 weeks and settles down for most women at around 12 weeks. But for around 35 per cent, morning sickness takes another month or so to subside and, for an unfortunate minority, it can be an ongoing battle until their baby is born.
There are some women who are predisposed to morning sickness:
- Those who have a family history of it
- Who have had it with previous pregnancies
- Women who are sensitive to oestrogen found in birth control pills
- Those who suffer from migraines or motion sickness
- Multiple births and girl babies are also high on the list of culprits.
4 ways to eat to lessen the symptoms
1. Eat little and often i.e. small, frequent mini-meals. An empty stomach/low blood sugar can trigger or aggravate nausea, and it may occur upon awakening or anytime you go hours without food. Grazing on nutritious mini-meals throughout the day keeps your stomach satisfied and your blood sugar steady.
2. Consume bland, easily digestible foods. Examples include smoothies, yoghurts, custard, fresh or canned fruit, soup, cereal, mashed potato, boiled rice, toast, plain pasta.
3. Avoid hard to digest fatty, spicy or fried foods. Ask yourself: Is this a "rich" meal? If the answer is yes, don't eat it.
4. Eat nutrient dense foods. Include avocados, kidney beans, fish, meat, yoghurt, nut butter, whole-grain bread, brown rice and nuts. If peanut butter is too strong, try almond or cashew butter (spread it thinly) on crackers, bread, apple slices or celery sticks; a large glob of it may bounce back due to its high fat content.
When and which fluids to have
Try drinking fluids only between meals, and limit them during meals but bear in mind it's important to keep yourself well hydrated.
- Several studies have shown that ginger is effective in treating and preventing symptoms of morning sickness. You can make a tea by adding a 2-inch piece of peeled and sliced ginger root to boiling water. Allow the brew to steep for 5 to 10 minutes, then strain and enjoy. Read more about ginger as one of my Superfoods.
- Carbonated (fizzy) drinks like lemonade and lemon squash and peppermint tea can help soothe an upset stomach.
If you know what makes you throw up, arrange for detours around the things that trigger nausea. Follow this checklist:
- If cooking odours bother you, consider pre-cooking and freezing meals ahead on the days you feel well.
- Buy more convenience foods e.g. frozen dinners, chilled soup, fresh pasta with sauce. Try my easy recipe.
- If you are invited to another home for dinner, offer to bring a dish you know you'll be able to eat.
- Carry your reliable edibles with you. When a hunger surge hits, you'll have something on standby.
- Cook easier meals; if the entire family eats cheese and crackers and yoghurt for a few meals, they will survive.
Before you sleep
Have long acting carbohydrate and some protein. Something like hot milk, custard and canned fruit, yoghurt and/or wholegrain products slowly release energy into your bloodstream throughout the night yet are unlikely to keep you awake.
Foods such as milk, cheese on crackers and yoghurt not only help to neutralize upsetting stomach acids but also take longer to digest the protein, so your blood sugar levels won't drop so much overnight.
On standby on your bedside keep plain bland snacks, such as plain crackers or biscuits. Then give yourself some extra time in the morning to nibble a few dry biscuits and then rest for 10 minutes before getting out of bed.
10 other tips to ease morning sickness
1. Avoid smells that make you feel sick. The most common offenders include body odours, coffee, petrol, solvent fumes, garbage, scented cosmetics and toiletries, and pungent aromas of cooking foods. As much as humanly possible, design your day to avoid the known triggers.
2. Dab some lavender and peppermint oils on a handkerchief. Carry this with you in a plastic bag. When you smell something that turns your stomach, take a whiff of your scented hanky.
3. Drive, don't ride. Some women find that by doing the driving instead of riding, they have less nausea.
4. Try acupuncture. Both Eastern and Western medical practitioners describe a pressure point about 5cm above the crease on the wrist which, if stimulated, may relieve nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy and motion sickness (such as seasickness).
5. Wear acupressure bands around one or both wrists. This simple device, created to fight seasickness, has also helped many pregnant women through morning sickness. Each band contains a button that presses on the nausea pressure point. Studies have show these bands to be effective. You can find them at chemists and health food stops.
6. Lying on your side. Heartburn often occurs together with the nausea. This burning feeling, which is caused by reflux of stomach acids into the lower oesophagus, occurs more frequently during pregnancy. For heartburn, keep upright or lie on your side after eating. Lying on your back is more likely to aggravate heartburn.
7. Get out of bed slowly. Rising too quickly in the morning or after a nap can worsen or induce the feelings of morning sickness.
8. Choose who you share your misery with. Mothers who have been there and had morning sickness will understand, others won't.
9. Get out more. Visit friends, go to a movie, rest in a hammock, take a walk at lunchtime, or go to a park with friends. A change of scenery may provide a stomach-settling distraction.
10. Delegate! Give as many tasks as you can to other members of the family.
Think about the baby that's coming! Morning sickness – mostly – will pass.
Management of nausea and vomiting in the British Medical Journal June 2011 recommends the following:
Severe on-going morning sickness occurs in less than one per cent of pregnancies but it requires exclusion of other causes and more aggressive management, usually in hospital. Rehydration is first line treatment, but in severe cases, anti-emetics (to stop vomiting) should be prescribed. Phenothiazine, antihistamines, dopamine agonists, and selective 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor antagonists are all safe in pregnancy. In cases of intractable vomiting, combinations of several may be needed delivered by drip.