Morning sickness affects nearly 85% of pregnant women at some point during their pregnancy. Unlike it’s name tends to insinuate, morning sickness can hit at any time. For some women this lasts only briefly but for some it can last the whole pregnancy. It can be unpleasant but is not usually dangerous. There are many natural ways to alleviate morning sickness, and make your day more bearable.
NOTE: Always make sure your doctor or midwife is aware of your situation. Vomiting during pregnancy can lead to dehydration and malnutrition if it continues long enough. In some cases it may be an unrelated illness and should be investigated.
What Causes Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness is partially caused by the many hormonal changes occurring in your body.
- HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin): This hormone rises quickly in the first trimester and levels off by week 12, which is why a lot of women feel better by this time.
- Estrogen: This hormone also rises rapidly in early pregnancy and levels off by week 12. It is believed that estrogen plays a part in heightened sense of smell as well; certain aromas instantly trigger the gag reflex.
Ways to Ease Morning Sickness
- If you’re hungry, eat!: Never allow your stomach to be fully empty. Eating small meals throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar from dipping too low and triggering nausea. Try eating carbohydrates before you get out of bed (crackers, toast, dried fruit, popcorn, granola bars, etc.).
- Protein: Protein is the best source of sustained energy and will be one of your biggest friends when preventing nausea. Eat some just before bed to avoid feeling queasy in the morning.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Avoid refined grains and simple carbs like pasta and sugar. These foods not only have little nutrition but can lead to low blood sugar. Enjoy whole wheat pastas, breads, and other whole grains.
- Drink: Dehydration is a major cause of nausea. Aim for 2.5 liters of water, unsweetened juices, and herbal teas.
- Avoid foods that can cause gas and bloating. Drinking carbonated beverages can help get rid of stomach gas.
- Avoid sucking on hard candies on an empty stomach. Although this may temporarily relieve your nausea, the digestive juices you stimulate could make matters a lot worse.
Herbs & Supplements
- Avoid taking your supplements on an empty stomach.
- Herbs. There are a variety of herbs that can help with nausea like dandelion root, wild yam, vitex, false unicorn, and black horehound. Find someone knowledgeable in the use of herbs during pregnancy to instruct you in their safe use.
- Ginger has has been clinically proven to relieve nausea. Take 250 mg three to four times per day in capsule form (do not exceed 1 g) or drink 5-6 cups of ginger tea throughout the day.
- Digestive teas such as fennel and spearmint may also be of benefit if indigestion leads to your nausea.
- Acupressure: ‘Seabands’ are designed to offset motion sickness. They firmly press an acupressure site that lies 1/6th of the way between your wrist and elbow, in the middle of the inner side of your forearm.
- Vitamin B6: Taking 25 mg of B6 throughout the day (do not exceeding 150 mg.) may help ‘shut off’ the nausea ‘control-center’ in your brain. Many women are deficient in B vitamins at the onset of pregnancy, especially those who were previously on oral contraceptives.
- Homeopathics: Try remedies such as nux vomica, ipecac, and sepia.
- Make sure you sleep when you’re tired: Exhaustion can aggravate nausea, and baby-making is tiring work!
- Indigestion: Try using digestive enzymes such as papain and bromelain at mealtime to aid digestion.
- Keep active: CO2 buildup in the blood can contribute to nausea, which can be reduced with the help of cardio activity.
- Aromatherapy: Many essential oils are not to be used during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. However lavender oil, when inhaled, may help relieve nausea.
- Avoid smells, tastes, and textures that trigger your nausea.
Most of all, enjoy your pregnancy! you’re building a life and the trying times of morning sickness will soon come to an end.
My husband and I had longed to have a baby, and when I fell pregnant we couldn’t quite believe it had happened so quickly. We were so excited!
It was not the most straightforward of pregnancies. I felt more ill than I could have ever possibly imagined, making ordinary tasks almost impossible. At six weeks it hit, ‘all day and all night’ sickness. I spent most days lurching from my bed to the sofa and back, unable to eat almost anything. I only threw up once, but I wished I could have been sick more often for the relief that would inevitably follow. Food shopping and even opening the fridge was unpleasant because of the smell. Despite how distracting this was I would console myself with the knowledge that all this nausea was my body maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Thankfully at 13 weeks the sickness began to clear.
Having been offered a routine ultrasound, my husband and I opted for it, keen to follow the development of our baby. We were eager to see her on the screen. My heart sank when a blood test was promptly requested- the nuchal fold of skin that is at the back of the baby’s neck was thicker than was considered “average”. We were given the option of a CVS. I had heightened levels of HCG in my blood stream and had a 1 in 50 chance of our baby being born with a chromosomal disorder. In accordance with my age group it should have been 1 in 1400. We went ahead with the procedure, and in short it was the most awful and traumatic experience of my life and the week that followed was no better while waiting for the outcome and the decisions that would have to follow. The call came informing us that our baby was perfectly healthy, so now finally we could get on with looking forward to the future and the growing excitement of becoming parents, or so we thought. We had had the best possible news and for that we were grateful. (For information on this and related tests, read this.)
The next few weeks were good and hopeful. I felt well and started to enjoy this pregnancy, my bump was developing nicely, and we began telling people. I was amazed by the miracle that was unfolding within. I felt proud of my little baby.
At 16 weeks we encountered a rather unforeseen and unpleasant altercation. Though unrelated to the pregnancy, I was upset and hurt by what had happened. I didn’t handle it well. Had I not been pregnant, I believe I would have come to terms with what had happened and moved on. But I couldn’t and in retrospect I felt it had been a difficult ride up until this point. I hadn’t processed what had gone before and I was left in essence traumatised, we both were. I did not realise this or what a vulnerable state I was in. I felt as though I had fallen into a hole, had been swallowed up and couldn’t see my way out. Like an avalanche, out of nowhere, I didn’t know which was up. Now the physical had become psychological. Over the following weeks I became overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety, stress, hopelessness and despair. My sleeping became irregular and I began suffering with panic attacks and having huge bouts of crying.
I struggled to articulate my concerns. I did not have a history of depression and although I was aware of the possibility of Post Natal Depression I had never even heard of Prenatal Depression. This pregnancy was planned, I had the most supportive and understanding husband. My life was great; to the outside world everything was fine. You’re supposed to be happy when you’re pregnant, and blooming and radiant, aren’t you? All of this added to my feelings of guilt and concern for our unborn baby. Could she read my thoughts, could she feel what I was feeling, would the heightened levels of the stress hormone Cortisol in the amniotic fluid affect her brain development, would this make her an unhappy person? I could not stop thinking these things.
How I Coped with Prenatal Depression
Towards the end of the second trimester the realisation that I would actually have to give birth began to dawn on me. So my quest to gain control began. I could not face the prospect of a traumatic birth experience after everything we had already been through. It was a gradual build towards my positive outlook; some days were not so bad, others were still awful. Several things seemed to coincide.
I phoned my midwife in a flood of tears, convinced my baby wouldn’t love me. She referred me to my general practitioner. Though my provider was sympathetic to my concerns, no headway was made to help me. There is a huge lack of medical understanding and research on Prenatal Depression. Medication was not an option for me. By the time I received a referral to speak with a counselor I felt it was no longer necessary.
I decided instead to begin to write about how I felt and I also joined several classes and met other new mums to be. We would meet weekly for Aquanatal classes (find one in UK). Not only did the exercise invigorate me and alleviate all the aches and pains associated with pregnancy but we discussed everything from carpal tunnel and Restless Leg Syndrome to what colour of pram we were having. We also discussed our plans to breastfeed and maternity leave. This for me was one of the most healing experiences and I would advise anyone to do this. I am still close with these women, only now conversations are all about first steps, weaning and teeth.
I also joined a class run by a Doula and she gave me practical and invaluable information on labour and birth. I learned about positioning for me and for baby, my rights and the informed decisions I could make, breathings and visualisations, and books to read. My favourite book was Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. My favourite topics were massage, essential oils for pain relief, and of course all about Oxytocin.
I began to feel so empowered! My depression and anxiety began to fade. I found a new focus and I started to look forward to birthing my baby.
I went on to have the most wonderful, positive natural birth experience with no doctors, interventions or drugs. Just privacy and peace. I delivered our 8lb 11oz baby girl in water after 5.5 hours of active labour. We were blessed to have a wonderfully intuitive and observant midwife. I learned to understand myself and to trust my body. From all the sadness before, our birth was the most wonderful experience. Motherhood has proven to be the most fun and fulfilling role of my life. As for my daughter, well, she is a happy, calm and contented little girl.
I have since learnt that 1 in 10 pregnant women suffer bouts of depression and anxiety, a figure which echoes that within the population generally (source- these statistics vary per country/region). Depression before pregnancy can increase the chances of having postnatal depression, but the majority who have PND do not have Prenatal Depression. Medical professionals mistakenly thought pregnancy hormones protected women from depression, leaving women more vulnerable after having given birth when the hormones plunge. It is now believed that the rapid increase of hormones at the beginning of pregnancy can disrupt brain chemistry and it is now starting to be recognised. Those considered at a particular risk are those with a personal or family history of depression, have had fertility treatments, previous pregnancy loss or complications or a past history of abuse. The symptoms can include anxiety, sleep disturbance, trouble concentrating, panic attacks, excessive crying, or feelings of anger, confusion, hopelessness, despair and emptiness.
I encourage all mothers-to-be who are feeling as I felt to build your support system, make friends, join classes, and communicate with your partner (it is their experience as well). I did not or could not consider quite the impact it had on my husband until a long time afterwards. Do fun things, make plans. Focus on your psychological wellbeing as well as physical health.
Educate yourself and be kind to yourself. It sounds simple and obvious, but in the busyness and confusion, excitement, fear and unknowns, it can all too easily be overlooked. Like many other things I came to realise with motherhood, all the trials and tribulations that one experiences are only a phase.
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Your Baby's Growth
Your baby's is now 3-4" long, about the size of an apple.
Your little munchkin is learning every day now! They have learned to reach and grab with their hands, touching their feet and generally wiggling around! The legs are now growing longer than the arms so starting to look more like a little person.
Also your little one's lungs are getting ready to take that first breath by sucking in and out amniotic fluid and have taste buds forming, although there isn't anything for baby to taste yet. The ears are fully developed now too so why not sing a song or read aloud to your bump to get the used to the sounds.
Baby will be growing a soft layer of hair all over their body this week too, which maybe why most mummy's-to-be experience what's called "linea nigra" a line of hair running up to your belly button, but don't worry it should fade after baby is born.
You should start feeling like you have a bit more energy now as the placenta takes over the job of feeding your baby, but remember to keep eating little and often to prevent low blood sugar and help fight tiredness. Fruit and nuts are good things to have laying around to grab on the move, also it's important to keep levels of omega 3 up, for you and to help babys brain development, you can find a lot of it in walnuts as well as beans, fish (esp tuna) and the highest levels are in flax seeds.
Here is a great list of vitamins to be sure to take at this stage. Also be sure to keep your iron up as your baby is growing! Take a look at this article for tips to increase your iron intake.
You may notice you have a blocked or even bloody nose around this time, which is perfectly normal, it's down to the increased supply of blood moving round your body. Also if this isn't your first pregnancy you may start feeling some little movements around now, although if it is your first you may have to wait another 3-6 weeks before you feel it.
From the Eyes of A TBS Mama...
Feeling like I've been on a hormone wave for the past 2 weeks and I am finally getting off! I feel normal again and apart from crying at Tangled (the movie), several times, I almost feel human! Have felt some little flutters from the baby this week, nothing I could confidently say was a kick, but certainly little butterflies! Been aching around my pelvis too this week, which I'm sure is just muscles stretching out. I've just been trying to sit with my feet up and get the hot water bottle out. OH has been very sweet and has started rubbing my feet as we sit on the sofa together, which if I have had a busy day is bliss! I think he's just happy for me not to be feeling sick or miserable anymore. :)
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