Whether it is called morning sickness, nausea gravidarum, vomiting or pregnancy, emesis gravidarum, NVP, pregnancy sickness or simply nausea; it is an unpleasant condition which affects more than fifty percent of all pregnant women as well as some of those who are taking hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.
The more extreme cases of morning sickness are known as hyperemesis gravidarum and may require hospitalization to treat the dehydration which may have resulted from the severe and frequent vomiting. Often, symptoms of morning sickness are the first symptoms of pregnancy as they usually begin on the 6th week and end around the 12th week of pregnancy. Although they are called morning sickness and occur most commonly in the mornings, its symptoms can appear at any time of the day or night.
The Causes of Morning Sickness
In spite of the fact that morning sickness is so common, there is still no conclusive evidence which points to a specific single or multiple cause. However, there are a number of theories such as the ones listed below:
- Lowered blood sugar (hypoglycemia) caused by the placenta drawing glucose energy from the mother.
- Elevated levels of progesterone relax the muscles of the uterus to avoid early childbirth. However, the abundance of progesterone can also relax the muscles of the stomach and the intestines and result in an overload of stomach acids and the gastroesophageal reflux disease.
- Levels of the hormone estrogen are one hundred times more prolific during pregnancy which may, in some women, result in the upset stomach, the nausea and the vomiting of morning sickness.
- The production of the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a glycoprotein hormone, begins soon after conception and its function is to ensure the continued release of the hormone progesterone.
- As the sensitivity to scents increases with pregnancy it stimulates and sets off nausea triggers.
- Increased bowel movements during pregnancy are evidence of the heightened activity of the intestines which may also explain the nausea and vomiting aspects of morning sickness.
- In an effort to create a healthful environment for the fetus, the body goes through the process of detoxifying itself as the kidneys and liver become more active during pregnancy. The nausea which then results in vomiting may be part of the same detoxification process as well as serving as a means by which to discourage certain foods or groups of food from being ingested. Statistics show that processed and unhealthy foods such as refined sugars, animal fats and alcoholic beverages result in more nauseous pregnant women than diets consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans and legumes, lean meat and fish and non-alcoholic drinks.
- Some researchers allude to the fact that morning sickness and its symptoms are intended to discourage sexual activity and, therefore, to prevent sexual urine cramping which can bring about a spontaneous abortion.
- The final theory which is harshly rejected by modern science comes from Sigmund Freud who hypothesizes that morning sickness is the result of the mother’s loathing of her husband and her subconscious desire to abort the fetus through vomiting.
Treating and Relieving Morning Sickness
Treatments of morning sickness are directed at the symptoms rather than at its cause or causes:
- Avoiding an empty or an overstuffed stomach by eating five or six small meals rather than three large ones.
- Inhaling the aroma of a freshly cut lemon.
- Eating raw cabbage.
- Following the BRATT diet which is often prescribed to patients with gastrointestinal problems and consists of low fiber foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce, toast and tea.
- Ingesting ginger; fresh from the garden, in capsules, in tea, ginger ale or in ginger snaps.
- Beginning the day with dry crackers.
- Refraining from drinking during meals but drinking plenty of fresh water between them.
- Socking on ice cubes made of fresh water or fruit juices.
- Listening to the body’s cravings and aversions and giving in to them.
- Ingesting vitamin B6 (pyridoxine or pyridoxamine).