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Dealing with morning sickness

A woman in her late twenties came to see me in my clinic recently. She said that she knew she was pregnant again because she had started throwing up every day after having her breakfast. Morning sickness during pregnancy is a common complaint, especially during the first trimester. My patient was puzzled that she had not suffered from morning sickness during her first pregnancy, but that it should occur now. Unfortunately, medical science has no answer for her question, as there is still very little that is known about the cause of morning sickness. However, in this article, I will try to provide some tips to overcome morning sickness.

Nausea and vomiting

Morning sickness is actually a deceptive term, as it can be more than just that for some women. There are women who feel just a little sick or queasy in the morning and may vomit once, but there are the unlucky ones who suffer from constant nausea and vomiting throughout the day. It is also a myth that it happens only first thing in the morning. The nausea and vomiting can occur at any time of the day, or even throughout the day. For most women, the nausea stops after the first three months of pregnancy. For a few, however, it is still a problem after four or five months, or even the entire pregnancy!

If you experience severe and frequent vomiting when you are pregnant, you will lose too much fluids, as well as nutrients and minerals. This can lead to dehydration, made worse by the fact that you cannot replenish your fluids because you can’t keep any food or liquids down. This condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum and requires immediate medical attention from your doctor. You may have to be admitted to the hospital and put on a drip.

Mysterious condition

To be honest, the actual causes of the so-called morning sickness are not known. It is generally attributed to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Oestrogen levels may increase by up to a hundred-fold during pregnancy, and have been known to contribute to various conditions during pregnancy. However, there is no consistent evidence to show that women with higher levels of oestrogen experience sickness, while others don’t. Some also believe that it is due to low blood sugar because the placenta is absorbing nutrients and energy from the mother.

The hormonal changes can also cause an increased sensitivity to odours, which overstimulates normal nausea triggers. But how did morning sickness come about, as a natural trait of pregnancy? It is believed that it evolved as a natural defense mechanism to protect the foetus from toxins ingested by the mother, as the unborn baby would not have developed defenses against toxins in food. Pregnancy sickness causes women to experience nausea when exposed to the smell or taste of foods that are likely to contain toxins injurious to the foetus, even though they may be harmless to her. In addition to protecting the foetus, morning sickness may also protect the mother. Pregnant women’s immune systems are suppressed during pregnancy, presumably to reduce the chances of rejecting tissues of their own offspring. Because of this, animal products containing parasites and harmful bacteria can be especially dangerous to pregnant women. There is evidence that morning sickness is often triggered by animal products including meat and fish.

 Managing morning sickness

Since the direct causes of morning sickness are not known, and the condition varies from person to person, the best advice that I can give pregnant women is to try to lessen the nausea and vomiting. Before going to bed, eat a small snack such as a yoghurt, bread, milk, cereal or a sandwich, so that you do not wake up on an empty stomach. In the morning, eat a small snack as soon as you wake up and before getting out of bed. This could be some dry crackers or bread. If possible, ask your husband to bring the food to you, or prepare it the night before and leave it beside your bed, so that you do not have to get out of bed.

Eat small, frequent meals every two to three hours, even if you’re not hungry. Drink lots of liquids, preferably 10 to 12 glasses of water, fruit juices or herbal teas every day. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. It helps to eat bland foods, without oil, fats or spices. Avoid foods or smells that make you feel nauseous. Ginger tea, ginger ale or ginger tablets can help to reduce nausea. If you can’t keep liquids down, try sucking ice cubes made from water or fruit juice.

For some women, the iron in prenatal vitamins can also be a cause of nausea and vomiting. If you think that this could be the cause, talk to your doctor. Don’t stop taking the vitamins on your own. Surprisingly, for some women, brushing your teeth immediately after eating may cause vomiting, so try not to that to see if it helps. Staying fit and energetic will help you to feel better, so get some light exercise, fresh air, and eat the foods that you still enjoy.

If none of these home remedies seem to work, if you vomit more than three or four times a day, and if you are losing weight, see your doctor immediately because you may need medical treatment to keep you and your baby healthy.

Star newspape. ِDec 06, 2009
By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar