Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP) is a common pregnancy niggle. It is usually known as morning sickness, though this is a misnomer as it can occur at any time and often lasts throughout the day.
The symptomsof morning sickness are often worse in the morning and ease up during the day, and many women experience relief if they eat a dry biscuit or cracker before getting up in the morning, which has probably led to common usage of the term ‘morning sickness’.
Who gets morning sickness?
There are women have no morning sickness at all, though most will experience some nausea and/or vomiting during the first 12 to 16 weeks of pregnancy. About 20% of pregnant women continue to feel nauseous beyond 20 weeks – some right up until they deliver.
The effects of morning sickness will pass
Morning sickness may make you more sensitive to certain smells such as cigarette smoke or coffee brewing, triggering an instant gag reflex. Combined with the tiredness that also often accompanies early pregnancy NVP can make the first trimester something of a trial…
The good news is that most NVP resolves itself by 14 weeks and many women find the second trimester to be quite comfortable, before the discomfort of the third trimester begins.
What causes NVP?
The exact cause of NVP is unknown, but it is thought be a result of the hormonal and other changes your body experiences during pregnancy. The main culprit is probably rapidly rising levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Oestrogen is also a prime suspect
NVP won’t harm your baby
You may worry that you are not getting adequate nutrition for your growing baby if you are unable to eat, but there is no evidence that NVP is harmful to the baby as long as you are getting enough liquid.
In fact, NVP is thought to be nature’s way of protecting the baby from food-borne pathogens during the vulnerable first weeks of foetal development. It is also a myth that women who don’t have morning sickness are more likely to miscarry or have babies with birth defects.
Common remedies for typical NVP:
These tend to be quite individual, so you may need to experiment to find out what works for you. Speak to your doctor about safe anti-emetic and anti-nausea medications you can take. Some women report that Vitamin B6 supplements help, but run this by your doctor first.
- Eating a dry biscuit or cracker before getting up in the morning can settle your stomach.
- Ginger has been found to an effective remedy for all kinds of nausea. Sip ginger ale or nibble on ginger biscuits or make ginger tea by infusing a knob of grated ginger in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes. Add a drop of lemon juice and honey to sweeten.
- Many women find that nibbling on ice chips or sucking on an ice lolly helps quell the queasiness.
- Eat small amounts often, rather than trying to eat a whole meal and keep foods as bland as possible.
- Avoid fatty, spicy, acidic, creamy foods or anything that makes your stomach rebel. It won’t harm your baby if you limit your diet for a few weeks to foods you can bear. Try to eat and drink something, no matter how little – an empty stomach will make you feel worse and dehydration must be avoided.
If you’ve been vomiting a lot try drinking a rehydrating solution to replace lost electrolytes. Try to do something that takes your mind off it, like watching a movie or spending time with friends. Alternative remedies such as acupressure bands are also available – speak to your doctor or midwife.
A small percentage of women suffer from such extreme nausea and vomiting that they need to be admitted to hospital to be rehydrated intravenously. This condition is called Hyperemesis gravidarium. If you are unable to keep any fluids down you should seek medical attention as dehydration can be dangerous for you and the baby.
Symptoms of Hyperemesis gravidarium
The condition is characterised such severe nausea that you cannot eat or drink anything and/or persistent vomiting that can occur three to four times a day, leading to weight loss, dehydration and possible nutritional deficiencies.