Morning sickness , also called nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP), or pregnancy sickness, affects between 50 and 95 percent of all pregnant women. It is also sometimes experienced by women who take birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
When it occurs
Morning sickness is not confined to the morning: nausea can occur at any time of the day, though it most commonly occurs soon after waking, perhaps due to the fact that the stomach is empty at that time.
Morning sickness usually starts in the first month of the pregnancy, peaking in the 5th to 7th weeks, and continuing until the 14th to 16th week. For 50% of all sufferers, it ends by the 16th week of pregnancy.
There is insufficient evidence to pin down a single (or multiple) cause, but the leading theories include:
- An increase in the circulating level of the hormone estrogen. Estrogen levels may increase by up to a hundredfold during pregnancy.
- Low blood sugar during pregnancy.
- An increase in progesterone relaxes the muscles in the uterus, which prevents early childbirth, but may also relax the stomach and intestines, leading to excess stomach acids.
- An increase in human chorionic gonadotropin.
- An increase in sensitivity to odors.
- Eating vegetables. One theory is that the small amounts of toxins vegetables produce to deter insect infestation are normally harmless to humans but extremely dangerous to embryos; therefore, becoming nauseated during pregnancy was an evolutionary measure to protect the embryo. Other studies, however, have linked consumption of fruits and vegetables to higher birth weights, which tend to mean healthier babies.
Treatments for morning sickness typically aim to lessen the symptoms of nausea, rather than attacking the root cause(s) of the nausea. Treatments include:
- Avoiding an empty stomach
- Eating five or six small meals per day, rather than three large ones
- Ginger, in capsules, tea, or in ginger ale or ginger beer
- Vitamin B6 (either pyridoxine or pyridoxamine) sometimes taken in combination with the antihistamine doxylamine
- Acupressure applied to the P6 point on the inside of the forearm, one-sixth of the way from the wrist to the elbow
- Lemons, particularly smelling freshly cut lemons
- Fulfilling food cravings
A doctor may prescribe antinausea medications if the expectant mother suffers from dehydration or malnutrition as a result of her morning sickness.
Thalidomide was originally developed and prescribed as a cure for morning sickness in Great Britain, but its use was discontinued when the drug's teratogenic properties came to light. The United States Food and Drug Administration never approved thalidomide for use as a cure for morning sickness.
Associations with miscarriage risk
Studies have shown that women who suffer from morning sickness are less likely to have miscarriages, while other studies have shown that the majority of women who do miscarry had multiple pregnancy symptoms including pregnancy sickness. Some doctors refute the claim that lack of morning sickness indicates an increased risk of miscarriage. They claim the mother's sensitivity to the changes in her body is not a variable that indicates risk of miscarriage. It is also mentioned that many women having a molar pregnancy or an ectopic pregnancy suffer strong nausea.
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