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Morning sickness: why it happens

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Morning sickness: why it happens

Post by AlleyRose on Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:42 am

Why am I feeling sick all day long?
There's no single explanation for why you're feeling sick. Some combination of the many physical changes taking place in your body is probably responsible. But your blood sugars, which are utilised more quickly during pregnancy, are likely to be the main cuplrit. 

When your blood sugar level drops, you feel nausea and needing an 'energy fix'. Most mums find that it helps to eat small amounts often during the day, which has the added bonus of helping avoid indigestion. 

Increasing oestrogen levels, an enhanced sense of smell, excess stomach acids, and increased fatigue also play a part in you feeling awful. Some researchers theorise that stress and emotions may also play a role in morning sickness. 

Although it won't alleviate your nausea, it may be reassuring to know you're not alone. About 75% to 80% of mums-to-be find the early weeks of pregnancy feel like one long, sickening ride on a mega-roller coaster. What's worse, this morning sickness can strike morning, noon, or night. 
How long will the nausea last?
No two pregnancies are alike, and the same goes for bouts of morning sickness. The nausea you're feeling can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months -- or longer, though that's rare. By the end of the third month, most women stop feeling totally nauseous. Unfortunately, queasiness or mild nausea can come and go throughout pregnancy. It's often triggered by certain smells, which vary from woman to woman. For example, Mary, a writer, survived three months of vomiting during her first pregnancy, but the smell of potatoes made her feel sick right up to the day she delivered her daughter. 
What happens if I vomit so often I can't keep anything down?
Talk to your doctor. You should also ask for help if you don't feel at all like eating. Thankfully, this syndrome, called hyperemesis gravidarum (literally "excessive vomiting in pregnancy"), is rare. And frightening as it sounds, it can be treated. 

If left untreated, excessive vomiting can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, and other complications for you and your baby. Your doctor or midwife can help you avoid reaching a crisis state by prescribing a special diet, suggesting you rest in bed, or even admitting you to hospital. 

If you're diagnosed with dehydration, you may be hospitalised so you can receive intravenous hydration with fluids, glucose, and electrolytes. You may also be given medication to decrease your nausea and vomiting and help you keep food down. 
Will my nausea affect my baby?
Morning sickness won't threaten your baby's well-being as long as you're able to keep food down, eat a well-balanced diet, and drink plenty of fluids. 

Most women with morning sickness work out pretty quickly what they can and cannot stomach, and how many times they need to eat throughout the day. And if you find antenatal vitamins hard to swallow, try taking them with food - it may be a little easier on your stomach. If you still can't stomach them, consider eating a vitamin-fortified cereal every morning. And be extra certain to eat a diet that's high in all the vitamins you and your baby need
What tried-and-tested remedies will help?
The key to avoiding nausea is trying to manage your blood sugar levels. Try not to let your blood sugar levels drop because this is likely to be when you feel the worst. 

No doubt you're already avoiding any foods and smells that make your stomach churn. To prevent -- or at least minimise -- queasiness you may also want to:

  • Have some protein as a late supper before you go to bed. Something like a cold boiled egg with celery, sardines on a cracker biscuit, some nuts or cheese on wholegrain toast would work well. Your body takes longer to digest the protein, so your blood sugar levels won't drop so much overnight.

  • Keep some simple snacks, such as plain biscuits, by your bedside. Then give yourself some extra time in the morning to nibble a few dry biscuits, and then rest for 20 to 30 minutes before getting out of bed.

  • Eat small, frequent meals. An empty stomach can increase nausea. Aim for foods high in protein or carbohydrates, as both can help fight nausea.

  • Your doctor or health carer may suggest taking 50mg of vitamin B6 twice a day, which helps some women, but do check with your doctor before taking it.

  • If you're taking an antenatal supplement, try discontinuing it temporarily. If the nausea improves, give yourself a few days off and then try taking it again.

  • Since iron can be hard on your digestive system, don't take iron supplements unless a blood test shows that you are anaemic. Even then, it's worth trying different brands as some may suit you better than others.

  • You may need to eat what and when you fancy for a while, but try to avoid rich, spicy, acidic or fried foods, and eat less fat in general.

  • Though it's important to keep yourself well hydrated, try drinking fluids only between meals, and limit them during meals.

  • Keep snacks on hand. Try eating small amounts of bland food throughout the day. Good choices include a fresh crunchy apple, dry biscuits, yoghurt (high in B vitamins, which can decrease nausea), or anything else you can bear to eat.

  • Sniff lemons. The smell of a cut lemon may help your nausea. Add some slices to iced tea or sparkling water.

  • Drink ginger ale or ginger tea. Ginger is known to settle stomachs and help queasiness.

  • Give yourself time to relax. Talking things over with another mother-to-be can be a nice way to relieve some of the stress you're feeling.

  • Try acupressure bands. You can find them at chemists and healthfood shops. This simple device, created to fight seasickness, has also helped many pregnant women through morning sickness. Strap it on so that the plastic button pushes against an acupressure point in your wrist, and you may begin to feel some relief.

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