Morning Sickness Survival Tips

Morning Sickness Survival Guide

March 1, 2018

Morning Sickness Survival Guide

Morning Sickness Survival Guide
Morning Sickness Survival Guide

If you’ve ever been charmed by the idea of “morning sickness”—indeed a sign that you’re really, truly pregnant—you may discover that living through it is a different story. It’s like a hangover without the fun night before, or a churning seasickness while you’re at your desk or lying in bed.

“Just remember that it very likely shall pass,” says Jennifer Lang, M.D., a Los Angeles–based ob-gyn and author of The Whole 9 Months: A Week-by-Week Pregnancy Nutrition Guide with Recipes for a Healthy Start. Until then, here are some facts and tips to help you through morning sickness.

What is Morning Sickness?

Morning sickness simply describes the nausea and vomiting that happens during pregnancy, though it can be misleading. “It’s a bit of a misnomer; it can happen any time, day or night,” Dr. Lang says. For most women, the symptoms start around 5 weeks pregnant or 6 weeks pregnant of pregnancy, reaching a peak around 9 weeks pregnant. There’s there’s typically a slow (sometimes excruciatingly slow!) decline in morning sickness symptoms, until you should be feeling more like yourself around 15 weeks pregnant.

It’s like a hangover without the fun night before

Alas, a few women aren’t so lucky—one in five are still feeling sick in the third trimester. About five percent of women struggle all the way through to delivery. That’s normal too.

So if you’ve felt pretty much fine through the beginning of your pregnancy and then are struck by stomach flu-like symptoms in the second or third trimester, it could be the sign of illness or even food poisoning. Tell your healthcare practitioner about any sudden or uncomfortable physical changes you experience.

Should I Worry About Morning Sickness?

There’s no connection between feeling awful and risk to your developing baby. That morning sickness queasiness could even be protective, Dr. Lang says. “Evolutionarily, it may be a protective way to avoid harmful toxins.”

You should tell your healthcare practitioner about any physical changes you experience. Still, they will probably say there’s no reason for concern unless symptoms become severe—if you’re vomiting multiple times a day, for several days in a row, for example. That could be the sign of a potentially dangerous medical condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).

Other symptoms of HG include urine that’s very dark and concentrated-looking (a sign of dehydration), sudden feelings of dizziness or quick weight loss—more than five pounds. In these cases, “don’t tough it out,” Dr. Lang says. “Bring it to your doctor’s attention.”

What Causes Morning Sickness?

It’s actually a bit of a mystery, according to Dr. Lang. “(Morning sickness) can be triggered by a number of things that are unique to each woman.” What’s probably true, she says, is that it’s some combination of all of them. For example:

  • Food/Odors: For many pregnant women, certain scents or tastes can trigger nausea: perfumes or the smell of food cooking, for example, can turn your stomach, as can spicy tastes and fatty foods. If you’re someone who is extremely sensitive to taste—a “super taster,” as they’re called—you may be even more likely to experience morning sickness.
  • Mind/Body: There are psychological triggers, including stress, as well as physical: “If you’re prone to nausea and vomiting with migraines, menstrual cycles or traveling by boat or car, you’ll be more likely to experience morning sickness,” Dr. Lang says. The same is true with higher thyroid levels. And if your mother or sister experienced symptoms, chances are you will too.
  • Hormones: Research also shows a connection between morning sickness and changing hormone levels. These include:

  • Progesterone: This is a hormone that rises dramatically during pregnancy and is known to slow down the digestive system.
  • Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG): It’s the hormone that triggers that “plus” sign when you pee on a pregnancy test. It’s associated with higher level of nausea and vomiting.
  • Estrogen: As it rises, can also cause trouble for some women (they may also be sensitive to birth control with high estrogen levels for the same reason). And there may be a bit of truth to the old wives’ tale that a queasy stomach is the sign that you’re carrying a girl, according to Dr. Lang. “There’s a slight increase in prevalence of morning sickness in women carrying female fetuses,” she says. “That may be due to slightly higher estrogen levels.”

What Can I Do to Make Morning Sickness Stop?

The only real way out of morning sickness is to get through it, but you can take steps, in the meantime, to alleviate your symptoms:

  • Sleep: “Getting good sleep, as much as you can, is an excellent place to start,” Dr. Lang says.
  • Eat/Drink: “If you can, eat smaller, regular snacks throughout the day as opposed to larger meals,” Dr. Lang says. Big meals will take an especially long time to move through your system while you’re pregnant, which may trigger nausea. Also try to eat something first thing in the morning. Some women swear by plain foods, like crackers, while others find that foods high in protein and fat, such as almonds or cheese, keep the nausea at bay longer. Sips of water often help, as does a little carbonation, Dr. Lang suggests. Certain foods and scents—including citrus and ginger—can also be soothing.
  • Move: At the very minimum, “don’t lie down immediately after meals,” Dr. Lang says. Keep up your workouts if you can—it’s shown to offer some relief. Or try walking after meals. Yoga can help, as can meditation, acupuncture and acupressure.

Any Morning Sickness Remedies I Can Try?

Don’t do take anything for morning sickness without first talking with your healthcare provider, Dr. Lang says. “Please do not self medicate—and don’t go to the pharmacy and start pulling supplements off shelves. Honestly, they can be just as harmful or even more harmful than the symptoms.”

She says that a prenatal vitamin you’re already taking could help, especially the Vitamin B6 it contains. You could consider taking it at night, with a small snack, rather than in the morning on an empty stomach. For some women, additional magnesium and calcium could help.

There are prescription medications available for women with hyperemesis gravidarum—given orally or through an IV—but that is a decision you’ll make in consultation with a professional.

And while it’s easy to wish that there was a magic cure for morning sickness, there is one bright side: this is definitely a case where time can heal. In most cases, the queasiness is a long-distant memory by the time your baby is a few weeks old.

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