Anybody suffering with morning sickness will no doubt understand the cruelty of the name, for many pregnant mums the sickness would be better called ‘morning, afternoon, evening and night sickness’.
Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy (NVP), or morning sickness as it is more commonly known, is estimated to affect approximately 75% of expectant mums at some point with around 25% actually vomiting. It most commonly appears between 6 and 9 weeks of pregnancy and for many it subsides by 12-14 weeks. For others however it can persist well into the second and even third trimester and for an unlucky few, estimated to be around 5%, it may not disappear until after the baby is born.
Approximately 0.5% of pregnant women will sugger from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) which is a very severe form of NVP which generally requires hospitalisation and medical treatment.
What Causes Morning Sickness?
Nobody is really sure what causes morning sickness, however there are a number of theories:
1) Normal Hormonal Changes
It is thought that some women may be affected by early pregnancy hormones, namely the hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (HCG). The novelty of this hormone in the body may cause women to feel nauseous, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy when it is produced at the highest levels.
2) Carrying a Male Baby
Despite the popular urban myth that baby girls cause more morning sickness research has actually shown the opposite with a slight increase in NVP amongs those carrying a male baby. HG (severe sickness usually requiring hospitalisation) however appears to be slightly more common among those carrying a female baby.
3) Family History
There does appear to be a familial link, in that those women whose own mothers have suffered from morning sickness may be more likely to experience it themselves.
4) Vitamin B6 Deficiency
Some scientists have suggested that expectant mothers who are deficient in vitamin B6 are more likely to suffer from morning sickness. Indeed supplementation of vitamin B6 appears to have some success in reducing morning sickness.
5) Psychological Reasons
Some experts believe that morning sickness might have a psychological cause, such as difficulty accepting the pregnancy or fear of giving birth or becoming a parent. Many hypnotherapists offer help for reducing morning sickness, however some believe that any depression or anxiety experienced may be due to the NVP rather than the cause, the evidence here for this reason is not clear cut and sadly research is lacking.
Home Help for Morning Sickness
There are many self help measures available for morning sickness and normal NVP. If you suspect that you may be suffering from HG, suspect you may be dehydrated or do not feel able to control your morning sickness do visit your GP as soon as possible as there are medical treatments available.
- Eat little and often. Small snacks of plain food such as dry toast and savoury biscuits may help.
- Try to rest as much as possible, being tired may make you feel worse
- Consider wearing acupressure ‘sea bands’ on your wrists
- A supplementation of vitamin B6 may help, ask your doctor, midwife or pharmacist about the dosage.
- Ginger tea may be helpful
- Practice relaxation methods, such as mindfulness or controlled breathing
- Make sure you drink enough fluids, this is very important if you are actually vomiting
- Many women find relief in complementary therapies such as acupuncture, homeopathy and aromatherapy, whilst clinical research does not support this anecdotal evidence is positive. Do make sure you always visit a suitably qualified professional however and do not be tempted to home treat.
By Sarah Ockwell-Smith – Parenting Author