Morning sickness in pregnancy

Morning sickness is the most common symptom of the first trimester of pregnancy with up to 80% of woman suffering from nausea or vomiting at some point during their pregnancy.  Unfortunately ‘morning sickness’ is more like ‘all day sickness’ with symptoms likely to be at any time of the day.  It can commonly be felt in the morning due to an empty stomach.

Morning sickness will start at around 6 weeks and usually stops at around 12-14 weeks. The most severe form of morning sickness is a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), where a woman experiences excessive vomiting in pregnancy and it is important to be treated by your doctor or midwife.

Feeling sick is normally a good sign that your hormone levels are high.   The cause of morning sickness is not known but it is connected to your levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and oestrogen. The good news is it will not affect your baby’s wellbeing unless you are struggling to keep food and fluids down.

Some woman are more predisposed to morning sickness, such as:

  • Those who have a family history
  • Those who suffer from motion sickness or migraines
  • If you have helicobacter pylori, a bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal system, one of the culprits of stomach ulcers
  • Those expecting twins or triplets due to higher levels of pregnancy hormones

One theory is that an increased sense of smell and nausea your body trying to protect you from eating something that is unsafe or harmful.

Tips to help deal with Morning Sickness

Unfortunately there is no magic cure but the following tips may help you get through those first weeks easier:

  • Eat before rising (keeps some dry crackers such as cruskits or saladas on your bedside table to nibble on).  Give yourself some extra time in the morning, have a dry cracker before getting out of bed and rise slowly.
  • Many woman find having an empty stomach or feeling too full can increase nausea so try to consume small, frequent meals during the day. Drinking fluids between meals rather than with meals may help.
  • Avoid high fat, high spice and high flavoured foods.  If a food or meal feels ‘rich’ to you, it more than likely will not go down too well.  Bland, dry foods are easier to consume.
  • It may also help to leave windows open or use an exhaust fan to get rid of odours when cooking. Also ask your partner to take up the cooking!
  • Cold meats can be less nauseating than cooked meats.  (Remember home cooked and fresh is best).  Try cold meat and salads instead of a hot meal.
  • Fresh ginger or ginger products are a natural way to ease nausea and work for some woman.  This could be consumed through ginger tea, ale or tablets.
  • Avoid smells that make you feel sick.  Strong odours such as body odour, coffee, petrol, garbage, and cooking aromas being the most common.  Avoid these as best you can!
  • Have a small snack before bed that is low glycaemic index and a source of protein to help you not wake up starving.  Examples of this are a milk drink, a tub of yoghurt or slice of wholegrain bread.

Examples of bland foods to snack on during the day include:

  • Crackers such as corn thins, plain rice crackers/cakes, cruskits
  • Pikelets, scones
  • Fresh fruit
  • Toast – plain or fruit
  • Rice
  • Plain pasta
  • Cereal

And remember, it will end and you WILL get through it!  Feel comfort knowing many mothers have had it or are also experiencing it. You’re not alone!

If you need help maximising your nutrition in any stages of your pregnancy, see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian to tailor a plan to suit you. - Peita

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