The dreaded “morning sickness.” The running joke in pregnancy publications is that it should be called “all-day sickness” because it isn’t limited to morning. This is absolutely true.
During my three pregnancies, I found that I felt the worst in the evening after a long day of wearing myself out. The exhaustion was almost unbearable. Other women actually vomit all day, every day. For others, it’s chronic fatigue and exhaustion, just like me.
If you are currently struggling through “morning sickness,” you may be wondering what is causing this not-so-great phenomenon. In truth, there is no for-sure cause of feeling awful during pregnancy, but there are a few potential culprits.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
This is the hormone used to detect pregnancy in pregnancy tests. It spikes as the placenta is being formed in early pregnancy and then levels off in the second trimester. This is why it is suspected to be the cause of nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy.
WebMD: No one knows how hCG contributes to nausea, but it’s a prime suspect because the timing is right: Nausea tends to peak around the same time as levels of hCG. What’s more, conditions in which women have higher levels of hCG, such as carrying multiples, are associated with higher rates of nausea and vomiting.
This is another correlating factor to sickness in early pregnancy. Other hormones rise along with estrogen, though, so it can’t be known for sure if this specifically is the problem.
An enhanced sense of smell and sensitivity to odors.
I consider this a chicken-or-the-egg factor. Is it an enhanced sense of smell that results in nausea or does the nausea result in us reacting more harshly to smells? After all, there is no scientific research to back this up.
WebMD: It’s not uncommon for a newly pregnant woman to feel overwhelmed by the smell of a bologna sandwich from four cubicles away, for example. Certain aromas instantly trigger the gag reflex. (Some researchers think this may be a result of higher levels of estrogen, but no one knows for sure.)
A sensitive stomach.
Another chicken-or-the-egg factor. Does the sensitive stomach cause the nausea or the other way around? According to WebMD, some research points to increased levels of Helicobacter pylori, which may result in these symptoms, but not all studies confirm this link.
Yet another factor with correlation without proof of causation. Stress may very well cause nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy, but throwing up all the time may cause a significant amount of stress!
WebMD: Some researchers have proposed that certain women are psychologically predisposed to having nausea and vomiting during pregnancy as an abnormal response to stress. However, there’s no conclusive evidence to support this theory.
What to Do About Nausea and Vomiting?
Whether these symptoms are rooted in hormones or something else, the unquestionable truth is that they exist … so what should women do about them? There are a number of ways to treat nausea and vomiting, there many women don’t end up with much of a reprieve.
1. Eat small meals throughout the day
The last thing nauseated women want to do is eat, but an empty stomach only adds to the problem. Try to eat basic things like crackers, toast, or cereal and keep those items by your bed to eat first thing in the morning.
3. Acupressure bands
These bands, which have historically been used for motion sickness, have been rebranded for mothers-to-be. They work by laying over the Pericardium 6 (P6) acupuncture point, which has been long known to relieve nausea.
4. Don’t have fluids at mealtimes
Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books offers this as one of her tips to fight nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Some women find that drinking fluids while eating increases their nausea.
5. Don’t force yourself to eat foods that make you feel worse just because they’re good for you
I love this advice. So many moms-to-be feel pressure to eat well during pregnancy. Well, if you’re throwing up everything you’re eating, it really doesn’t make any difference what it is – none of it is staying down!
Learn more about Ann Douglas and her books at anndouglas.ca/author.