It is said that motherhood is the greatest crown a woman could bear. But as with everything worth having in life, the road to this is not an easy one. Pregnancy brings with it many new ordeals, both physical and psychological. Facing the changes experiences goes through, particularly in a first time pregnancy, can be challenging. This is why we decided to take you through one of the most frequent complaints in pregnancy, commonly called ‘morning sickness’.
How the body responds to pregnancy
Pregnancy is a miraculous thing, even from a medical point of view. A female body shelters and nourishes a separate being created within. Every system in the body undergoes change from the first week onwards to hold the foetus inside the womb and prevent it from being rejected by the body’s immune system. The body fulfills nutritional requirements and prepares for labour. With these transformations taking place inside, an array of outward symptoms are to be expected.
Morning sickness, also called the Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy (NVP), occurs in more than eighty percent of all pregnant women. While nausea is the commonest complaint, more than fifty percent complain of vomiting as well. The term ‘morning sickness’ is a misnomer because the symptoms can occur any time of the day. The exact cause of the disease is not known, but it is believed to be multifactorial. The hormone oestrogen and the hormone secreted by the human placenta, hCG, are said to play a part in this. Interestingly, the pattern of morning sickness differs from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy in the same person.
Even though many first-time mothers find this condition alarming, it is self-limiting most of the time. In most pregnancies, the symptoms start within 4-8 weeks of pregnancy and automatically cease around 16-20 weeks. Numerous research done on the subject have concluded that there is no association between morning sickness and adverse pregnancy outcomes, so it is not necessary to worry about morning sickness being bad for the baby.
What you can do
In many women, nausea is triggered by strong odours or flavours. Identifying the triggering factors and avoiding them as much as possible is advised.
An empty stomach is believed to worsen the symptoms, so having multiple small light meals throughout the day in place of three large meals is advisable. Bland food like crackers, dry toast and potato chips usually help relieve the symptoms. Avoid food rich in fats because emptying the stomach is delayed with fatty food.
Drinking tea, king coconut and other beverages containing sugar or salt in between meals is advised. Some researchers have found that ginger is particularly helpful in relieving queasiness during pregnancy. You can either add ginger to your tea or drink water boiled with ginger at least twice a day.
If you are one of those people who gets nausea as soon as you get up in the morning, nibbling on a few crackers as soon as you wake up and staying in bed for 20-30 minutes may help. Also, avoid sudden movements as much as possible because this may upset your balance system, triggering nausea.
Low appetite as a result of NVP is unlikely to hinder the growth of the foetus in the first trimester, as long as you continue taking the antenatal vitamins.
Prescribing medication in pregnancy is a delicate matter, because some of the drugs may affect the growth of the foetus. Therefore, never self-prescribe medication. If you have difficulty carrying out your day-to-day activities, always consult a doctor. You will be given selected drugs if it is deemed necessary.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is a condition where a mother gets severe and intractable vomiting during the first trimester of the pregnancy. This may result in marked weight loss and muscle wasting, in addition to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance in the mother. It may occasionally give rise to other complications like tears in the gastrointestinal tract due to severe retching and may even affect the central nervous system. If not diagnosed and treated timely, this condition has the risk of negatively affecting the foetus, unlike simple nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, so knowing when to seek medical treatments is important.
When to contact your doctor
- Severe nausea or vomiting
- When you aren’t able to keep any food down for a minimum of 24 hours.
- If you are losing weight due to vomiting and loss of appetite
- If you notice a reduction in urine output
- If you vomit blood