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Why women experience morning sickness and nausea during pregnancy

 

Anyone thinking that morning sickness and nausea during pregnancy is rare is gravely mistaken. As much as 90% of the pregnant population experience morning sickness during at least the first trimester. Some may experience symptoms in the morning, and feel increasingly better throughout the day. Most feel nauseous for the majority of the day, and may vomit consistently throughout the day and evening. Experiencing nausea throughout the entire pregnancy is not as common, but still happens. Every woman and every pregnancy is different.

 

Although the root cause for morning sickness still baffles doctors and scientists alike, there are many factors that can contribute to the discomfort:

 

  • Being stressed. Researchers have found that having a higher level of stress promotes stomach aches and nausea. That goes for everyone, not just for pregnant women.

  • Typically, if a woman already has a sensitive stomach and/or digestive system, the major hormonal changes that occur during the first trimester can easily cause irritation. Women with an increase in bacteria in their stomach or digestive tract are also more likely to have morning sickness.

  • Having a sensitivity to smells, which increases drastically during the first trimester, may lead to nausea.

  • Pregnancy involving more than one baby.

  • Those harrowing hormones. During the early stages of pregnancy, hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) levels rise. Although not directly linked to morning sickness, hCG levels spike when nausea does, which leads scientists and doctors to believe that they are related.

  • As estrogen levels increase, accordingly, so does the intensity of nausea.

 

Even if a woman does not experience vomiting during pregnancy, nausea may be a pesky problem. Higher instances of fatigue can cause an increase in muscle aches and cramping, which may lead to nausea and/or vomiting. “Mind over matter” is easier said than done, especially for a blossoming belly and its effect on mom, but when that proves too difficult a feat, there are other saving graces for that upset stomach! There are many ways to relieve nausea naturally while pregnant.

 

Ways to relieve morning sickness and nausea

  • Mint. Mint tea (with pure mint oil/extract) is a great way to ease nausea and heartburn during pregnancy. You can use fresh mint in tea, or buy already made tea. If tea is not your cup of… well, tea, then, try sucking on a mint. Teas infused with other natural antioxidants are great, like green tea mint. Or, ginger mint...

  • Ginger. Ginger tea, ginger bread, raw ginger, ginger chips, ginger snaps, ginger ale... Regardless of what form it takes, as long as it is made from real and pure ginger, it will help with nausea, and double as a natural pain reliever. Some health food stores sell chewable and/or hard ginger candies, which are perfect to keep in your purse, desk, or car.

  • Clear liquids. Drinking a plentiful and consistent amount of clear fluids throughout the day will aid in hydration, which will help decrease nausea. As for an increase in trips to the bathroom? Look at it as practice for the last few weeks of pregnancy.

  • Eat small meals more often. Try to avoid overeating, as this can upset the stomach. Eat smaller meals more often to maintain blood sugar levels. Make sure to eat lots of protein and avoid excess sugar. Try healthier snacks like kale chips or coconut crackers.

  • Avoid fatty, spicy, and acidic foods. Foods high in fat tend to take longer to digest, and spicy and acidic foods can upset the stomach and cause heartburn and acid reflux, which may lead to nausea and vomiting. It may be best to ignore those cravings, and reach for a bowl of grapes instead of a burrito.

  • Get out of bed slowly. Take it easy sitting up in the morning, and again with getting out of bed.

  • Crackers or other potassium and sodium-rich snacks like pretzels. Keep some next to your bed to munch on before bed if you tend to have nausea and vomiting at night. If you tend to vomit early in the morning, try to eat something small before starting the day.

  • Sleep. Taking small naps and getting adequate sleep at night will not only help with fatigue, but with nausea as well, as being tired can increase the intensity of stomach aches. Your body needs rest now more than ever, anyway. Get those zzz’s while you can!

  • Vitamin B6. Scientists are a bit dumbfounded by how vitamin B6 helps first trimester nausea, but it indeed does! Not only does it help with nausea and morning sickness, but it helps with fat metabolism, which leads to decreased fatigue and increased energy. Every mama could use natural energy, right?

  • Magnesium helps in a multitude of ways during pregnancy, starting with easing muscle tensions and nausea. One can soak in a bath of magnesium flakes, consume magnesium naturally in foods like spinach, pumpkin seeds, and avacados, or take it in powder form (mixed with water). Additionally, most prenatal vitamins should have magnesium. However, that magnesium is typically canceled out by the calcium in the prenatal, as the body best absorbs one at a time. Therefore, taking magnesium a few hours before/after taking/consuming calcium is best.

  • Light exercise. As little as seven minutes of exercise at a time can decrease stress, put the mind at ease, and decrease nausea and fatigue. Prenatal yoga, dancing, swimming, and biking can all be helpful for gaining and maintaining strength, which will help lessen nausea when your body is stretching and moving to make room for the baby. Make sure not to overexert yourself, and do not allow your core body temperature to rise to an uncomfortable level. Make sure to remain cool and drink plenty before, during, and after exercising.

  • Relax. Take a soothing, warm bath, or read a book. As previously mentioned, stress can work numbers on the stomach (and just about everything else). Make sure to take breaks while at work, and stop to breathe or meditate throughout the day. Centering oneself can relieve stress and help the body to relax.

  • Aromatherapy. Combat nausea and morning sickness with fresh scents, like that of lavender, rose, chamomile, and thyme. Using essential oils or dried herbs in satchels, baths, or the like can help relax the soul and stomach.

 

Other ways to relieve morning sickness during pregnancy

Accupuncture, massage, and seeing a chiropractor can help ease morning sickness, as well as other aches and pains associated with pregnancy. Accupressure wrist bands have been rumored to decrease the likelihood of nausea during pregnancy too. Sleeping sitting at an angle instead of flat may help to ensure that stomach acids do not move up the esophagus, which can cause heartburn and nausea. If certain foods or vitamins trigger nausea, avoiding them will probably remedy the problem. The same goes for smells, pictures, or movies.

Persistent vomiting may be a sign of something more severe, and should not be ignored. Consult a professional if nausea and/or vomiting are relentless and long lasting, or if natural remedies do not help.

Though one can not control hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy, the effects can be lessened - if not eliminated - by being proactive and taking advantage of all that nature has to offer.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 05:15

‘It’s twins!’: A Father’s Perspective

Any man is delighted to hear that he is about to become a father. I think it’s also safe to say that every man is equally terrified at the prospect!

Now imagine my reaction in the doctor’s office when I learned that I had double the work on my hands. The news that my wife and I were expecting twins delighted us more than you can imagine, but it also petrified me to think that in a few short months I would be responsible for not one, but two tiny human beings. 

All pregnancies are miraculous, but there’s something particularly amazing about the idea of two babies developing inside my wife's belly. While we are making sure my wife receives the best prenatal care, it concerns me that carrying twins can pose more risks for her and the babies than a single child pregnancy might. 

I did my own research to stop myself from worrying excessively, watching videos about parents and their experience managing twins. The British-based National Health Service website had very useful and reassuring information on multiple birth pregnancies page. I discovered that while the risks are can be greater, preparing for a multiple birth pregnancy isn’t that much different from a single birth. Eating healthily and getting plenty of rest are the best recommendations for any pregnant woman – especially when she is doing the work for 3 people!

Whether a woman is expecting one, two or three babies, diet is crucially important. To help my wife out as much as I can, I will be taking care of the cooking. Expectant mothers of twins are at greater risk of developing anaemia, so we’re paying particular attention to iron-rich recipes like thyme-buttered cabbage. I’m sure that will go down as a treat when the cravings kick in!  

The thought of teaching my children to ride bikes and swim fills me with happy anticipation, and I’ve already been looking at things like sleeping bags and outdoor clothing in preparation for the fantastic camping trips I’ll be taking the twins on!  It hasn't been easy to stop thinking about all the things that could go wrong, but I am trying to focus on getting excited for being a father of two energetic children.

I’ve learned to stop treating my wife as if she’s made of glass. There are risks and complications with every pregnancy, and expecting twins doesn't make her more fragile. I’m focusing on taking one day at a time, doing my absolute best to make sure my wife is calm and doesn’t want for anything, and eagerly awaiting the day I get to meet my babies!

 

Published in Just For Dad
Monday, 29 October 2012 08:19

Physiological Changes During Pregnancy

Physiological Changes During Pregnancy

There is a common perception that the best things in life are free; and like every viewpoint, there is probably an element of truth to it. Pregnancy brings us the best thing in life – human life. When you factor out the cost of tests and all the peripheral elements of pregnancy, the process is pretty much “free.” However, when you include the physical and emotional changes that women undergo during this process, although they may not have a monetary cost, pregnancy is definitely not free.

Normal changes that occur to your body during pregnancy are called “physiological changes.” These changes are myriad; some of them are visible and some occur internally. Most are reversed following birth, yet some remain as a permanent reminder that you have participated in the creation of life. All physiological changes have one common purpose: to protect you and your baby during pregnancy so that the two of you remain healthy and get to experience many more years of joy and bonding together.

The most obvious physiological change during pregnancy is fetal growth, and fat and water retention. The placenta and amniotic fluid also add weight, which is predominantly manifest in a larger stomach. Add to this the fact that you are now eating for two.

Weight gain varies, like every pregnancy. General guidelines for pregnancy weight gain are between 11 and 40 pounds (5-18kg) depending on your starting weight and BMI, with overweight women expected to gain less weight [1].

As well as the stomach growing, so too do the uterus and breasts. The uterus undergoes an enormous change in weight (up to 20 times its original weight) and up to 1,000 times its pre-pregnancy capacity. It changes texture, shape, and position; and its internal structures also change. And given how all our organs are somehow connected, your feet may swell (edema) due to the enlarged uterus compressing veins and affecting lymphatic drainage from the legs.

Breasts grow one to two cup sizes, or even more [2], as they prepare for breast-feeding. Similarly, growth in the torso often results in the requirement for a larger bra [3].

Internally, your body is flooded with estrogen to ensure that you can cope with the pregnancy and birth as required. Even though morning sickness (that affects approximately 50% of women) may be caused by the estrogen, it might not exactly feel like the estrogen is doing you much good.

As your heart has to work harder with all the additional strain placed on it, your cardiac output, heart rate, and stroke volume increase as red blood cell volume increases 20-30% and plasma volume increases by 40-50% [4]. Potential effects on platelet concentration may result in anemia.

The physiological changes described are barely the tip of the iceberg as the body works in perfect harmony all for the purpose of reproduction. It may not be easy but it is necessary.

As the sex blessed with bringing life into the world, women have been imbued with a strength and fortitude that has to be seen to be believed. Pregnancy in general and the act of childbirth in particular are two life-altering events that bring this courage to the fore. Nothing compares with these two experiences and we have been tasked both with enduring them and growing from them. Everything good in our lives requires effort and sacrifice. When you are holding your little miracle no doubt you will realize that the price you paid was minimal.

Written by Sharon from the Hadassah Medical Center, visit for more information on physiological changes during pregnancy.

[1] Pregnancy weight gain: What’s healthy? http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy-weight-gain/PR00111.

[2] Frequently Asked Questions, BravadoDesigns.com. http://www.bravadodesigns.com/faq.

[3] Frequently Asked Questions, BravadoDesigns.com. http://www.bravadodesigns.com/faq.

[4] Guyton and Hall (2005). Textbook of Medical Physiology (11 ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders. pp. 103g.

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