Guest Post and image by Dr Laura Villa
Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, but the morning sickness that comes with it is not so great.
Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that happens when you are pregnant. Up to 85% of women experience this in their first trimester. It typically begins at around week 4-8 and is most severe at week 9. Although called morning sickness, it is not limited to the morning and can occur at any time during the day.
In most cases, it resolves after the first trimester and does not cause any adverse effects to the mom or baby. Morning sickness does not need medical attention unless it is severe and leads to dehydration and weight loss. ⠀⠀
Causes of Morning Sickness
Although we do not know precisely why it happens, there are some theories:
- One possibility is that the high levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) trigger nausea and vomiting. Pregnant women begin making HCG shortly after a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus.
- Estrogen levels increase steadily during pregnancy and reach their peak in the third trimester. The other theory is that morning sickness is due to the increase in estrogen levels, which stimulates the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes smooth muscles and slows down gastric transit time and gastric emptying.
- Like estrogen, progesterone levels increase during pregnancy. Progesterone decreases smooth muscle contractility, meaning it alters stomach function.
- The presence of nausea and vomiting is hypothesized to have developed as an evolutionary tactic to prevent mother and fetus from harmful foods.
- There is an increase in evidence showing that women with hyperemesis gravidarum, a more severe form of morning sickness, have an infection with Helicobacter pylori.
Treatments for Morning Sickness
What causes morning sickness is not clear, and there is no way to prevent morning sickness completely, but there are things you can do to help.
- Be sure to eat small, frequent meals. Avoid being really hungry as that is often a trigger.
- Increase your protein intake and drink protein shakes if needed. Protein helps balance blood sugar and keeps you full for longer.
- Take vitamin B6. This vitamin helps our bodies to process certain amino acids (proteins), which may reduce nausea.
- Drink ginger tea or take ginger root capsules. Ginger is an antiemetic and helps prevent nausea and vomiting.
- Make sure to stay hydrated! You might even need to add in some electrolytes.
- Acupuncture, especially points near the wrist, can be incredibly beneficial for nausea and vomiting. An acupuncturist might even be able to guide you so you can do acupressure at home.
- Ozgoli G, Goli M, Simbar M. Effects of ginger capsules on pregnancy, nausea, and vomiting. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15(3):243-246. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0406
- Firouzbakht M, Nikpour M, Jamali B, Omidvar S. Comparison of ginger with vitamin B6 in relieving nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Ayu. 2014;35(3):289-293. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.153746
- Bellefonds Cde. Morning Sickness and Nausea During Pregnancy. What to Expect. https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/morning-sickness/. Published November 13, 2020. Accessed March 14, 2021.
- DynaMed [Internet]. Ipswich (MA): EBSCO Information Services. 1995 – . Record No. T114643, Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy; [updated 2018 Nov 30, cited place cited date here]. Available from https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114643.
- Nausea during pregnancy: A good thing? Mayo Clinic. Accessed March 15, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/nausea-during-pregnancy/faq-20057917#:~:text=HCG%20has%20been%20linked%20to%20nausea%20and%20vomiting%E2%80%94women
- Lee NM, Saha S. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2011;40(2):309-vii. doi:10.1016/j.gtc.2011.03.009
- Cardaropoli S, Rolfo A, Todros T. Helicobacter pylori and pregnancy-related disorders. World J Gastroenterol. 2014;20(3):654-664. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i3.654