Your pregnancy - coping with morning sickness
One of the best known downsides to pregnancy is the nausea and vomiting of early pregnancy. Morning sickness, as it is commonly called, has had many women wondering why they wanted to be pregnant at all!
Nausea and vomiting are linked to increased hormone production in early pregnancy. Symptoms usually begin between the fifth and sixth week after the first day of the last menstrual period, and can range from mild heartburn to violent vomiting. The symptoms usually clear up by the 13th week of pregnancy but in some cases can continue until delivery. A small number of women may find that they feel sick for several weeks early on in their pregnancy and then well again until they are a few weeks away from delivery, when their symptoms return.
Many women find that so-called "morning sickness" isn't restricted to the morning. Some feel queasy all day, every day. Others find they feel ill if they don't eat regularly or exert themselves, while others may feel sick or experience heartburn after eating, or worse at different times of the day. Women may also find that their symptoms change from pregnancy-to-pregnancy.
Serious morning sickness
Heartburn, nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy are common and affect up to 80 per cent of all pregnant women. However, some women experience prolonged and severe vomiting called hyperemesis gravidarum, which can pose risks to the health of both mother and baby. Excessive vomiting can result in malnutrition and dehydration with dangerous shifts in the electrolyte levels in the blood. Another serious potential complication is bleeding in the retina of the eye (hemorrhagic retinitis) caused by increased blood pressure during vomiting.
Because hyperemesis gravidarum can be life threatening to a woman and baby, she may be hospitalised and given electrolytes and drugs via an intravenous drip. Once dehydration and vomiting have been corrected, she can begin eating frequent, small portions of bland foods.
Most cases of morning sickness are not serious and, although unpleasant, can be managed until the symptoms subside.
In mild cases of morning sickness, several steps can be taken to ease the symptoms:
- Eat frequent, small meals that are high in carbohydrates. Have a snack as often as every two hours; carry some water, dry biscuits, nuts or fruit with you in your bag
- Avoid greasy, spicy or strong smelling foods and drinks
- Limit your intake of sweet foods, which seem to worsen nausea in many women
- Try eating a little breakfast before getting out of bed in the morning. Many women find that bland, dry biscuits or ginger biscuits eaten first thing in the morning relieve their nausea
- Avoid drinking beverages with your meals
- Ginger is a safe method of easing nausea. Try sipping ginger tea or ginger ale throughout the day, or nibbling on crystallised ginger when you feel nauseous
- Consider liquid meals such as nutrient-enriched diet shakes, if you cannot tolerate solid foods - but discuss this with your healthcare provider forst
- Some over-the-counter antacids, vitamin and herb formulations and travel sickness remedies may provide some relief from symptoms or nausea and heartburn. Remember to always consult your pharmacist before taking any medications during pregnancy - even "natural" ones
- In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe medications for nausea however as with most miedications, there is doubt about the safety of some of these medications
The good news is that morning sickness generally clears up by the second trimester, when a hearty appetite is likely to replace your earlier aversion to foods. If you do experience any worrying or unpleasant symptoms during your pregnancy, always discuss these with your healthcare provider.