Studies show that over 50% of pregnant women will suffer from morning sickness or nausea during their pregnancy. For most women, the symptoms usually begin before the ninth week and in 9 out of 10 women, symptoms thankfully disappear by the end of the first trimester. However, some women experience nausea and vomiting for much longer than this, and about 1 in 10 continues to feel sick after week 20.
So what causes morning sickness? Unfortunately there is no definitive answer but the most common theories include:
- High levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG during the first trimester
- Elevated estrogen levels
- Enhanced sense of smell during pregnancy
After experiencing no nausea at all with my first pregnancy, it came as a real shock this time around when it hit me in my sixth week. Thankfully my morning sickness was pretty textbook and the feeling of being constantly hungover every single day only lasted for 6 weeks! Unfortunately there is no miracle cure for morning sickness but here are a few things that I found helpful to get me through the days (and nights):
- Eating little and often to keep your blood sugar levels high – in fact I pretty much ate all day, everyday for the first trimester which was pretty hard to hide from my colleagues; ‘are you eating AGAIN?!’ and ‘You surely can’t STIILL be hungry?!’ were directed at me on more than one occasion! For a few weeks the only food I managed to stomach was marmite on toast which worried me as it’s not the most nutritional thing to eat, but babycentre put my mind at rest when i read the following: “If you are feeling very sick, try not to worry about eating a balanced diet at this stage. You and your baby can catch up on the right amount of nutrients later in your pregnancy, when your nausea may have subsided”. Phew!
- Sea-Bands which you normally associate with travel sickness were at times, my saviour. Worn on your wrists, the bands have a small button that digs gently on a certain acupressure point thought to ease nausea. They are safe to wear in pregnancy but if you’re trying to keep you’re pregnancy under wraps you’ll have to wear long sleeve tops to hide the bands.
- Ginger tea – I drank copious amounts of real ginger infused in hot water which worked wonders (until you feel gingered-out) . In fact ginger in any form is brilliant for easing nausea, so its a good excuse to consume LOTS of ginger biscuits too!
- Mints and sweets – Sucking on mints and other boiled sweets helped to ease the never-ending sickness feeling.
- Sleep, and lots of it – In the early months, I was sleeping for 2 hours every lunchtime (on my non-working days!) when the little man had his lunchtime snooze and most nights I was in bed by 9pm. Rock ‘n’roll!!
- Fresh air – Stepping outside where possible or just opening the window seemed to help.
- My nausea decreased slightly when I started taking my pre-natal vitamins in the eveningrather than the morning.
- I drank as much water as I could manage to keep well hydrated – I found ‘room temperture’ water quite hard to stomach so predominantly sipped on iced water and lemon water.
- Make sure you eat something before you get out of bed in the morning – nausea is more likely to occur when you have an empty stomach so keep a stash of dry foods on your bedside table (crackers, rice cakes, cereal bars etc.)
Other Morning sickness solutions which I never tried but are meant to help ease your constant nausea include:
- Hypnotherapy – this can help reduce the severity of morning sickness by tackling any stress or anxiety that you may be holding on to subconsciously.
- Flat cola/sprite and energy drinks – the sugar gives you a boost when morning sickness makes you flag.
- Lemons – Just sniffing a slice of lemon can effectively relieve morning sickness. A friend of mine used to carry around a lemon with her everywhere to help keep her nausea at bay. Sprigs of Rosemary are also meant to help in the same way.
- Acupuncture – a safe and painless procedure which can give relief from morning sickness for up to a week.
There is a more severe version of morning sickness, which is known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum, for which the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to hospital. This affects around 2% of all pregnant women and if you are vomiting numerous times a day and are unable to eat or drink without being sick, you may have this form of the condition. Unlike normal morning sickness, Hyperemesis Gravidarum can affect you and your baby’s health unless it is treated, so talk to your doctor or midwife as soon as you can.