Coping with pregnancy nausea
Nausea is one of the earliest pregnancy symptoms. It may begin as soon as two weeks after conception, when a woman is 4 weeks pregnant and misses her first period, but most commonly starts a fortnight later, at around 6 weeks of pregnancy. It usually peaks between 7 and 12 weeks. “Morning sickness” is somewhat of a euphemism, as the nausea can strike at any hour and often lasts all day. In fact, most women feel worst in the late afternoon. For this reason “pregnancy nausea” is a more accurate description of this surprisingly common experience.
Do all pregnant women suffer from nausea?
There are a very fortunate one quarter of moms-to-be who escape pregnancy nausea altogether. If you are one of the lucky few, count your blessings. If not, at least you’re not alone. About 50% of pregnant women suffer from nausea and vomiting, while the remaining quarter feels persistently green. They may not spend their time doubled over the toilet, but many secretly yearn for the relief of actually throwing up. Pregnancy certainly isn’t for sissies!
A Mom-to-be’s Misery Memoir
Jenny McCarthy, author of Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth about Pregnancy and Childbirth, eloquently describes her nausea: “I was in a constant state of queasiness… You know that second before you throw up when your mouth gets really watery and you start to sweat and you do that horrible run to the bathroom hoping to just get it out so you don’t have to feel that anymore? That was me… ALL DAY.” Like Jenny, many pregnant women complain of increased saliva production (ptyalism) and an unpleasant, metallic taste in their mouths.
“It only lasts a few weeks” and other platitudes
Pregnancy nausea “survivors” agree that sympathy is in short supply when it comes to this condition. Friends, family and even medical caregivers are quick to point out that pregnancy nausea is common and seldom lasts beyond the first trimester (although a few unfortunate moms feel wretched until delivery). Nevertheless, even a month or two of nausea can feel like an eternity, especially when coupled with the exhaustion and emotional rollercoaster of early pregnancy. If your nausea is debilitating, don’t suffer in silence. Be kind to yourself and ask for help when you need it. Consult your healthcare provider for safe treatment options and read on for our tried and tested tips.
What causes pregnancy nausea?
Although medical science has not yet determined a definitive cause, pregnancy nausea is probably caused by changing hormones, especially human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and oestrogen. These hormones rise rapidly in early pregnancy. In addition to nausea, they might increase sensitivity to taste and smell. Strong odours – even those that are normally pleasant, like coffee or hubby’s cologne – may make you gag during pregnancy.
Top tips for feeling better
- Take steps to prevent low blood glucose levels, as this can trigger nausea. Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Eat a bedtime snack that is high in protein. This will keep your blood glucose levels stable during the night and you may feel less nauseated when you wake up.
- Eat something before getting up in the morning. Set your alarm a few minutes earlier so you are not rushed. Ask your partner to bring you a cup of tea and a snack in bed, and get up slowly.
- Try to have a snack when you feel the nausea coming on. Dry toast, crackers or fruit are good choices, but listen to your body and stock up on the healthy foods you can stomach – ensure that these are on hand when you need them. Keep snacks next to your bed, on your desk at work, in your car and/or in your handbag.
- Drink fluids in between meals, not with your food. And make sure you drink enough – vomiting can cause dehydration.
- Lemon, peppermint and ginger products like teas may provide relief.
- When you are feeling sick to your stomach, the last thing you feel like is exercise. Ironically, it is the one thing that will make you feel better, especially when coupled with fresh air.
- Discuss your prenatal vitamins with your doctor. Some forms of iron actually contribute to nausea, indigestion and constipation. However, research studies indicate that vitamin B6 and zinc supplements may lessen pregnancy nausea.
- Many moms-to-be find homeopathic remedies helpful. Consult a homeopath or try Magen drops by Natura.
- Consider consulting a hypnotherapist or buying a pre-recorded CD specifically designed for this purpose. Several research studies suggest that hypnosis safely and effectively reduces pregnancy nausea and rumour has it that Kate Middleton turned to hypnosis during her first pregnancy for relief.
When to get help
You may suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition that affects up to 3% of pregnant women. In severe cases, you may need hospitalisation and intravenous rehydration. Although you will feel miserable and occasionally even depressed, the good news is that your baby should not be affected. Like pregnancy nausea, hyperemesis gravidarum is probably caused by hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), and Moms with higher hCG levels – like those expecting multiples – are more likely to develop the condition.