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Morning Sickness Causes and Coping Strategies

Morning Sickness Causes and Coping Strategies

Oh ... that queasy feeling! Everything seems to bring it on, especially in the morning — smells, the sight of breakfast, even the thought of food. You may wonder: If this is what pregnancy is going to be like, who needs it? And why does such an exciting life event have to be accompanied by this constant nausea? Is something wrong?

What Is Morning Sickness?

Nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting, is a common symptom of early pregnancy. About 50 to 70 percent of pregnant women experience it in the first trimester. Not only is nausea normal, it's usually a sign that your pregnancy is healthy.

The condition is called "morning sickness" because that's often the time when the symptoms are the worst. However, you can feel queasy and throw up any time of day when you're pregnant.

What Causes Morning Sickness?

It's believed that the symptoms are caused by the pregnancy hormone hCG, which is produced by the developing placenta and which helps to maintain the pregnancy. But other factors such as low blood sugar, increased stomach acid, stress, and fatigue can also contribute.

Nausea Prevention Strategies

Prevention is the best way to deal with morning sickness.

  • Keep some plain crackers, rice cakes, or even a piece of chocolate at your bedside and eat something the moment you awaken, to raise your blood sugar before you get up.
  • Instead of eating three large meals a day, eat five to six small meals to avoid an empty stomach and keep your blood sugar stable.
  • Include sufficient amounts of protein in your diet (meats, fish, eggs, cheese) and complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains) to meet the requirements of your developing baby.
  • Some nutrition experts recommend taking 50 to 100 milligrams of a vitamin B6 supplement to prevent nausea. Take your regular prenatal vitamin as well.
  • Stay away from spicy or greasy foods, avoid becoming overheated and sweaty, and get adequate rest.

Coping With Nausea

When you're feeling nauseous, try the following:

  • Make yourself relax. Breathe slowly — in through the nose and out through the mouth — or try visual imagery, focusing on something pleasant.
  • Avoid the sight, smell, and taste of foods or other substances (such as tobacco smoke) that make you queasy.
  • Suck or chew ice chips, or suck on a freshly cut lemon.
  • If brushing your teeth makes you gag, try a mouthwash instead. Use it frequently to keep your mouth fresh.
  • Try a glass of milk or two calcium tablets to neutralize the acid in your stomach.
  • Apply a cold cloth or ice pack to your throat.
  • Try ginger, a natural remedy for nausea. Grate it on vegetables or other foods.
  • Drink chamomile or ginger tea.
  • Maintain your fluid intake, even if you don't feel like eating solids. It may help to not mix solids and fluids at the same meal.
  • Apply pressure with your thumbs on the bones at the base of your skull, at the back of your neck, just in from each ear; or apply ice to these areas.

Taking The Long View

The good news is that for most women morning sickness ends by the fourth month of pregnancy, when hormone levels begin to decrease a bit. If your symptoms of nausea and vomiting are persistent (occurring more that once or twice each day), prevent you from eating or drinking altogether, or continue past your first trimester, report this to your healthcare provider. You might have a more serious problem called hyperemesis gravidarum, which requires treatment with oral or intravenous medication.

Keep reminding yourself that the nausea is normal and will soon pass — and think about the positive side of being pregnant, and the happiness your baby will bring you.

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