Getting the Better of Morning Sickness
I am continuously staggered by how many women put up, uncomplaining, with nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Although, the temptation can be to try and persevere through it, there are lots of great simple steps that can make morning sickness much more bearable.
Morning sickness, of some degree, can affect up to 9 in 10 pregnant women. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is the more severe form of morning sickness which involves daily vomiting, often on multiple occasions, usually accompanied by weight loss. What a joy pregnancy can be! Although colloquially called “morning sickness”, the nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy can pervade throughout the day and night. While it mostly affects only the early pregnancy from 5 to 18 weeks, with a peak of unpleasant symptoms at 9 weeks, nausea and vomiting can persist for the entire pregnancy in some unlucky women.
The reasons why morning sickness occurs have not been entirely proven. Recent evidence has suggested that morning sickness is associated with a lower risk of miscarriage. It is thought by evolutionary biologists that to some extent morning sickness and the resultant aversion to certain food groups, may prevent exposure to toxins that may be harmful for the fetus. Equally valid, is the idea that elevated hormone levels, which slow that movement of food in the stomach and bowel, are to blame.
Thankfully, there are several fantastic tips that can help alleviate the symptoms allowing you to maintain sufficient energy and weight:
Food: Although it seems counterintuitive, not eating can actually make the nausea worse. Try to eat little and often. In those fleeting passing moments when you do not feel sick take maximal advantage and get some nutrition. We have found that small amounts of high carbohydrate foods such as dried fruit tends to work well. Foods that are high in fat tend to make symptoms worse. This is because high fat foods take longer to digest and the high levels of progesterone in pregnancy slows down the digestion of the bowel. Spicy food is best avoided as this can increase the change of acid regurgitation from the stomach triggering nausea and vomiting.
Fluids: Drink fluids that are intuitively refreshing. Many pregnant women find they best tolerate cold, clear, lightly carbonated and sour fluids such as lemonade or ginger ale.
Scents: As well as refreshing fluids, invigorating scents can be helpful. Try smelling fresh lemon, mint or orange zest. Alternatively use an oil diffuser infused with these scents.
Environment: The wrong environment can be a strong trigger for morning sickness. Try to avoid environments that are stuffy, hot, smelly or moving. So travelling in a full car with no air-con down the M1 is a definite “No.”
Vitamin B6: This seems to improve nausea but not vomiting when taken in doses of 10-25mg every six hours.
Ginger: This is a well-known home remedy for pregnancy nausea. Rather than powder, we recommend ginger containing foods such as ginger ales, lollipops and teas.
P6 Accupressure: The P6 accupressure point is located three finger breaths from the wrist crease on the palm side of the forearm. With your hand palm side up bend your hand towards you. You will be able to feel two tendons running along the middle of your forearm. The pressure point is between these two tendons. Massage in this area can help alleviate the nausea of morning sickness. Sea sickness bands placed in this area may also be of help.
While all of these methods can have a huge benefit many women still have dreadful nausea and vomiting despite taking all of these steps. If you are struggling with the symptoms of morning sickness and in particular if you are vomiting, unable to keep down fluids, peeing infrequently or having any tummy discomfort then you should book an appointment to see your doctor.
Dr Hugh Coyne