Morning sickness: All you need to know about this pregnancy symptom

Morning sickness: All you need to know about this pregnancy symptom
PHOTO: 123rf

Nothing welcomes you to pregnancy more than the feeling of morning sickness. It is one of the earliest and most common signs of being pregnant.

But does it really only occur in the morning, and what can you do to prevent it? Check out this quick guide.

What is morning sickness?

Morning sickness is a common phenomenon experienced by pregnant women, characterised by feelings of nausea or dizziness, often accompanied with vomiting.

While the name implies that symptoms typically occur in the morning, it's important to note that they can arise at any time during the day.

This pregnancy-related condition tends to occur predominantly during the first trimester.

But for some women, it may persist into the second trimester or even throughout the entire pregnancy.

In fact, it is estimated that at least 70 per cent of women experience morning sickness at some point during their pregnancy journey.

The nauseated feeling can vary in intensity and duration from woman to woman.

Some individuals may experience mild bouts of nausea that are easily managed, while others may face more severe symptoms that significantly impact their daily lives.

What causes morning sickness?

While the exact cause of morning sickness remains a bit of a mystery, researchers have identified several potential culprits behind this common phenomenon.

Hormonal havoc

Blame it on those fluctuating hormones. During pregnancy, the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and oestrogen surge, and these hormonal changes are believed to play a significant role in triggering morning sickness.

While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, these hormone surges are thought to disrupt the delicate balance in your body and contribute to those unwelcome waves of nausea.

Sensitivity to odours

Pregnancy can turn your sense of smell into a superpower.

Heightened sensitivity to certain odours is a common feature of morning sickness. Those once-innocent smells, like cooking aromas or perfumes, can suddenly trigger intense bouts of nausea.

It's believed that this increased sensitivity to odours can be a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy.

Evolutionary explanations

Believe it or not, there might be an evolutionary reason behind how you're feeling.

Some experts suggest that morning sickness serves as a protective mechanism.

By making certain foods unappealing or inducing nausea, it helps prevent pregnant women from consuming potentially harmful substances or foods that could pose a risk to the developing foetus.

Genetic factors

If your mother or sister experienced morning sickness during their pregnancies, you might be more likely to face it too. Some studies suggest that genetic factors can influence susceptibility to it.

Certain genetic variations related to hormone metabolism and the sense of smell have been associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing morning sickness.

Emotional and psychological factors

Stress, anxiety, and emotional changes during pregnancy may exacerbate morning sickness symptoms. While it's not a direct cause, emotional and psychological factors can influence the severity and frequency of episodes.

When does morning sickness start?

Let's dive into when this queasy and uneasy feeling typically makes its grand entrance.

According to experts, morning sickness usually kicks in around the sixth week of pregnancy. This is the time when many women begin to experience noticeable changes in their bodies and may suspect that they are pregnant. It's important to note that the timing can vary from woman to woman, with some experiencing morning sickness a bit earlier or later.

As pregnancy progresses, morning sickness tends to intensify, reaching its peak at around week nine. During this time, some women may find themselves feeling the most queasy and experiencing more frequent bouts of nausea and vomiting.

The severity of morning sickness can also vary greatly among individuals, with some women experiencing mild discomfort while others face more severe symptoms that impact their daily lives.

The good news is that for many women, it starts to subside as the pregnancy enters the second trimester. By around week 14 or 16, most women begin to experience relief from the relentless waves of nausea.

However, it's important to remember that every pregnancy is unique, and some women may continue to experience mild morning sickness or occasional episodes throughout their entire pregnancy.

When does morning sickness happen?

It's worth noting that "morning" sickness can be a bit of a misnomer since it's not limited to just the morning hours. You can feel nauseous and tired throughout the day. The exact pattern and timing can vary from person to person.

While this timeline provides a general framework, it's important to keep in mind that each woman's experience with morning sickness can differ.

If you have concerns about the timing or severity of your symptoms, it's always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider for personalised guidance and support.

Symptoms of morning sickness

Morning sickness is known as the most notorious sign of pregnancy. It is described as an overall bad or queasy feeling, leaving the pregnant woman with little energy to go through her day.

The following are the common symptoms experienced by pregnant women:

  • Nausea (a feeling of queasiness)
  • Vomiting
  • Retching (dry heaving without bringing anything up)
  • Excessive salivation

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

As mentioned earlier, the sickening feeling may make you uncomfortable, but it usually subsides and disappears as you approach your second trimester.

However, some women experience severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum, which causes them to have nausea and vomiting at least four times a day, leading to dehydration and weight loss during pregnancy.

Consult your doctor if you vomit consistently throughout the day, are losing weight or always feel dehydrated and are unable to go on with your daily activities.

Does morning sickness affect everyone?

While it is common for most pregnant women to experience morning sickness, there are some lucky mums-to-be who don't experience it throughout their pregnancy. As a general rule of thumb, it affects about 80 per cent of pregnant women in their first trimester.

When does morning sickness subside?

In most cases, the feeling of queasiness subsides by the end of the first trimester, when there is a normal drop in the hCG pregnancy hormone.

However, queasiness can come and go throughout pregnancy — all it needs is something like a particular smell you find unpleasant to start things off.

Exactly what it is that starts nausea off does tend to vary quite a lot from person to person.

There are also an unfortunate few who experience this nauseating feeling throughout their pregnancy.

Remedies for morning sickness

As mentioned, there really is no specific cure to make morning sickness go away for good.

However, there are some things you can do to make this unwanted pregnancy symptom more manageable.

Here are some tried and tested remedies you can try:

  • Eat something plain and dry as soon as you wake up — ginger biscuits or crackers are perfect. Then, if you can, rest for 20-30 minutes before getting out of bed.
  • During the rest of the day, try and eat small but frequent meals throughout the day — a couple of bites are better than nothing. Keep snacks on hand like dry biscuits, dried fruits, and a little bag of almonds or yoghurt.
  • Foods high in protein or carbohydrates can help fight that sick feeling, so try combining the two by eating a well-cooked egg on toast. 
  • Drink lots of fluid — water, juice, milk, fruit teas, whatever you can stomach. Ginger ale, ginger tea or even ginger candies are worth a try as they can settle your stomach and stop the queasiness.
  • Do not hesitate to extend your sleep when you feel like you can't get out of bed. All the vomiting will make you feel tired and it's okay to rest when you need to.
  • Avoid strong smells and odours that can trigger nausea.
  • Take prenatal vitamins at night if they upset your stomach when taken in the morning.
  • Acupuncture or acupressure may help reduce nausea.
  • Make sure you relax and take the stress out of your day.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga
  • Talking with other mums-to-be who've experienced the same problem can be very useful.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications that may help with morning sickness if other remedies are not effective.

When to call the doctor

Consult your gynae about seeking medical treatment for morning sickness if:

  • the queasy feeling continues into your 4th month of pregnancy.
  • you are not gaining enough weight or losing more than two pounds (one kg) a week.
  • your vomit is brown in colour or has blood in it.
  • you vomit more than thrice a day and are having trouble keeping food or fluids down.
  • your heart is beating faster than usual.
  • you're always tired or confused.
  • you notice signs of dehydration — dark urine or less frequent urination.

In conclusion, morning sickness is a common pregnancy symptom experienced by many women. While it can be unpleasant, it is usually not harmful to the mother or the baby.

Most women find that their symptoms improve by the middle of their pregnancy. However, if morning sickness is severe or persists beyond the first trimester, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider. With the right management techniques and support, women can navigate this notorious pregnancy symptom and enjoy a healthy pregnancy.

ALSO READ: Recognising the signs of postpartum depression: A guide to understanding and managing the condition

This article was first published in theAsianparent.

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