Understanding and managing morning sickness

There are many ways to help alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness.
Ginger, including ginger tea, is one possible remedy for morning sickness.

When a woman becomes pregnant, the balance of hormones in her body shift dramatically. This hormonal shift is critical to the development of the fetus, but it also can wreak havoc on the regular day-to-day functioning of the body.

One of the most talked-about consequences of this hormonal change is what we commonly call morning sickness. The term is a little misleading, though. The nausea and vomiting that many women experience in the early days of pregnancy can happen at any time during the day, not just the morning.

Though science has not determined the exact reason for morning sickness, we can point to a few clues to help us understand it. And since we have thousands of years of experience with pregnancy and morning sickness, we’ve learned quite a few ways to help alleviate the symptoms. 

What causes morning sickness?

Although several different causes have been suggested, the true cause of morning sickness is unknown. That said, morning sickness is very common. Seventy-five percent of all pregnant women report some type of morning sickness. This usually comes in the form of nausea. In about half of pregnancies, the nausea is accompanied by vomiting. Women at higher risk of morning sickness include: 

  • Women who are carrying twins or triplets
  • Women who have had morning sickness during a previous pregnancy
  • Women with a family history of morning sickness
  • Women with a history of migraines or motion sickness

What can help with the symptoms?

Luckily, for most women, morning sickness does not last past the early portion of pregnancy. During the time when morning sickness is most common, women can try to alleviate some of the symptoms. Of course, all women are different, so trial and error definitely comes into play when choosing a treatment regimen.

Diet seems to be the best way to decrease the severity of nausea during pregnancy. Some foods tend to trigger morning sickness. 

  • Avoid fatty and spicy foods and opt for a blander diet high in protein and carbohydrates.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day, as opposed to three large ones.
  • Have a small snack when you wake up and again right before going to bed.
  • Avoid lying down immediately after eating a meal.

The goal is to minimize the times during the day when the stomach is empty. So, even between meals, keep hydrated with cool, carbonated, clear beverages. We also recommend taking a daily multivitamin prior to pregnancy as this can reduce risk of developing morning sickness. 

If diet modifications don’t work some safe non-medication alternatives include:

  • Ginger (candy or drinks)
  • Acupuncture
  • Vitamin B6

If the symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend medications to help you feel better.

Keep in mind that morning sickness is common and, in most cases, will not negatively affect the pregnancy or last very long.

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