Up to 70% of pregnant women will experience some morning sickness. Whereas many people might take some medicine if they feel a bit nauseous, pregnant women sensibly try to keep away from pharmaceuticals because of the unknown affects on the developing baby.
Why Do Women Get Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness isn’t insignificant. It often starts around week 6 and can continue until week 16. That’s two and a half months of feeling like you’re going to vomit. Annoyingly, there isn’t a great deal you can do to prevent morning sickness. It’s caused by a change in hormones, it can happen any time of day, not just in the morning, it affects women from every culture and population and has nothing to do with general health or fitness.
It is thought that people evolved to experience nausea in pregnancy to help prevent the overconsumption of various foods which can be harmful to the growing baby. Several fruits and vegetables contain chemicals which the plant produces to act as natural pesticides to ward off animals. We can eat these plants because the level of pesticides (or phytochemicals) is low enough for them to only cause a slight irritation and cause us to mount a beneficial adaptive response, which is an example of hormesis.
The Problem With Phytochemicals in Pregnancy
In pregnancy, it is more important for these plants not to be over-consumed as the body is less resilient. It’s concentrating it’s efforts on growing a healthy baby, rather than dealing with irritants in the food. Some phytochemicals can cause hypothyroidism or anaemia, both undesirable states for a woman going through pregnancy.
Which Women Are More Likely To Get Morning Sickness
Morning sickness is more common and likely to be worse if:
• It’s your first pregnancy
• It’s a multiple pregnancy
• There’s a history or family history of nausea in pregnancy
• The baby is female
• You’re young
Hyperemesis gravidarum occurs in about 2% of pregnancies and is the serious and potentially life threatening cousin of morning sickness. It refers to persistent vomiting and severe nausea which leads to weight loss, dehydration, ketones in the urine, electrolyte disturbances and nutritional deficiencies.
In these patients, it’s often necessary to go to hospital and have intravenous anti-emetics, fluids and sometimes parenteral nutrition. But for women who do not need hospitalisation, there are several effective non-pharmacological options for reducing the symptoms:
1. Eat Small Amounts Frequently
Often having something in the stomach causes less nausea than having nothing. Often carbohydrate rich foods reduce the nausea the most. It’s important to listen to your body and eat whatever you feel like eating. And if it’s paleo, or there’s a paleo alternative available, then even better
Ginger is the best natural supplement you can take to help treat morning sickness. The research into its effectiveness is pretty robust and the effects can be substantial. The dose range is 1-3g and it can be taken in capsule form, raw, in syrup or liquid extract or even in tea or in crystallised form.
Peppermint is a decent treatment for digestive issues in general, including nausea in pregnancy. It seems to increase digestion in the stomach but also relax the intestinal smooth muscle. It can be taken as 250mg three time a day. It is also effective for reducing nausea when used as aromatherapy. In this case the dose does not matter.
There is some evidence that acupressure can help with the symptoms of nausea. Acupressure is performed by applying steady pressure to an area for about three minutes, as often as is require. The pressure should be firm enough to hurt a little. P6 is the area to use for relieving nausea in pregnancy. To find it, place your right index, middle and ring finger, palm down on the palmar side of your left forearm. The edge of your right ring finger should be at the crease of your left wrist. The point just below your right index finger, on the left forearm, between the two large tendons, is P6.
5. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 helps to relieve nausea in pregnancy, although only if you’re deficient in it to begin with. It is found in potatoes, carrots, bananas, spinach, fish and meat, so most people tend to have enough.
At a push, if, the nausea is too much to bare, antihistamine medication, such as cyclizine and promethazine, can be used and are not known to be harmful in pregnancy, although many pregnant women prefer not to take these just in case.
Morning sickness is a natural process, but one which doesn’t need to be endured without some relief. Hopefully these methods will help you through the difficult few weeks, and as the second trimester begins and the due date draws ever closer, they should slowly fade away. And on the plus side, the symptoms should be much better the next time around!
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