Of course, nobody likes the feeling of a queasy stomach—whether it’s after a loop-de-loop amusement park ride, during flu season or following a night of a little too much of your favorite libation.
But for pregnant women who experience morning sickness (a misnomer, because pregnancy-related nausea can occur during any time of the day), it’s especially tough.
That’s because not only do you feel bad quite literally, but you also feel bad emotionally—because you worry whether your developing baby is getting enough nutrients.
Truth is, for most women who have morning sickness, you don’t need to sweat it because your baby will get enough nutrients during the course of your pregnancy. The trick, however, is also figuring out how you can help yourself feel better and function throughout your day.
The good news? Most cases resolve by 14 weeks (and get better with subsequent pregnancies). It might also help to know that there may be an evolutionary reason why women experience morning sickness. One theory suggests that in the past when people ate a lot of raw food that could carry bacteria, nausea—which typically happens in the first trimester when the baby is most vulnerable—helped the developing fetus avoid exposure to toxins.
Biologically, we don’t quite know why it happens. It seems that something in the vomiting center of the brain is stimulated during pregnancy to induce nausea. It may be linked to higher levels of hormones (such as estrogen) during pregnancy. And you can add in two more factors that contribute: your heightened sense of smell and the fact that your digestive tract relaxes during pregnancy. As a result, the muscles guarding the esophagus are less efficient, which causes an increased flow of acid from your stomach into your esophagus.
That, of course, is no comfort if you feel like the bottom of a bucket full of mop water. Here are some of our strategies for helping to ease the nausea.
Eat Early: Stash 100 percent whole-grain crackers bedside and eat a few as soon as you awake. It helps to get something in your stomach before you start your day.
Go for Balance: Aim for a diet high in protein (such as chicken) and complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains and vegetables). If you start adding in rich, fatty foods, you may be more likely to suffer.
Seek Out Calories: If you’re concerned about getting enough nutrients, try chicken soup, which will help both hydrate you and give you some calories. Also, eat more cold foods (hot foods may trigger nausea as they are more likely than cold foods to have an aroma).
Don’t Write Off Your Symptoms: For severe sickness, you may want to talk to your doc about prescription medications like scopolamine, promethazine, prochlor- perazine and trimethobenzamide. (All have been shown to be safe for use during pregnancy.) If you can’t hold liquids down for longer than 24 hours, you may be suffering from a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (meaning that you vomit a lot).
Some sufferers have to be admitted to the hospital to be rehydrated. (Britain’s Princess Catherine had this—so although it is miserable, you are in good company.) Risk factors include multiple pregnancies, diabetes, hyperthyroidism and a history of motion sickness. Not all morning sickness is a “ride it out” problem and if you have severe nausea, you need to be seen by a doctor to determine if you should be treated for dehydration.