Pregnancy is one of the most intuitive experiences a woman can go through in life. Feeling the changes within your body, you begin to bond with your child. With your womb as a home, your baby begins to grow and develop. All this change may not come easy at first though.
During the first few months of pregnancy, you may experience Morning Sickness (nausea gravidarum)—a common experience of the first trimester that can make some women very uncomfortable. Symptoms of nausea, vomiting, discomfort, tiredness, light headedness, heartburn, loss of appetite and a change in mood can be a sign of morning sickness. Don’t let the name fool you either, morning sickness can happen at any point in the day depending on your body. But there’s a lot to understand about morning sickness and how to overcome many of the symptoms that come along with it.
Let’s stop and think for a second about the name: Morning Sickness. What kind of images does this bring to your mind?
I used to think of morning sickness as a miserable sprint from bed to bathroom with some saltine crackers in between. This was my first mistake. Although morning sickness can cause a lot of discomfort, seeing it as a negative thing may make your symptoms control your life until they decide to pass. Morning sickness is thought to be your body’s way of dealing with the new surge of hormones that are being produced to help you along in your pregnancy. Yes, help you. It may be uncomfortable and overbearing but it can be an incredibly positive sign of a healthy start and that is what we should be focussing on. Part of the reason that we see it as such a negative thing could be because we don’t scientifically understand exactly what is going on inside of us.
Once a fertilized egg is attached to your uterine lining, your body produces Human Chorionic Gonadotropin(HCG). This is the hormone that pregnancy tests are detecting in your urine. Although the reasons for morning sickness aren’t 100% clear, nausea usually starts with the production of HCG. This hormone is quick to double (usually every 48-72 hours) and can be detected in the body as soon as 11 days after conception. Around 13 weeks, HCG will come to your healthy hormone level (along with other hormones like estrogen) and symptoms of morning sickness will fade away.
When hormones like HCG, estrogen and progesterone are rising, women tend to experience a new level of sensitivity. This can make your regular stress limit change and create an abnormal response to situations that you may be used to. If you have an unhealthy amount of stress in your life or feel as if you’re in a constant state of fight or flight, you may experience harsher symptoms of morning sickness. Even the feelings brought up by the beginning of your pregnancy can cause stress that may lead to symptoms you weren’t expecting. It is important to diffuse this stress as much as possible—walk, yoga, stretch, sex, swim, sing, bake. Do what feels right for you!
With this enhanced sensitivity also comes a new relationship with food. Some of the foods that you enjoyed before you were pregnant have the potential to make you feel sick. Your gastrointestinal tract is changing amongst other parts of your body and your stomach acids and flora may not enjoy some of your pre-pregnancy favourites. Even the smell of some of your meals (or others around you) can trigger your gag reflex and leave you without an appetite.
Another thought is that morning sickness is your body’s way of clearing toxins from your body. In a world where everything comes in a plastic container or from some sprayed field, your body may want to clear out some of these unwanted chemicals to rejuvenate a space for your baby’s growth. A fetus does not have a liver to defend itself, so the mother’s body does the work.
Although not all women will experience morning sickness, the ones who do can consider it to be the start of a healthy pregnancy. More than half of all pregnancies start with signs of sickness and can last for days or weeks. If you are not experiencing morning sickness at the beginning of your pregnancy, do not be alarmed. During this period, it is important to remember that each body is unique in its way of accepting the hormonal changes and that it will pass.
You are at a higher risk of morning sickness if you:
– Are carrying multiples
– Are prone to migraines
– Have had morning sickness in previous pregnancies
– Have women in your family that experienced morning sickness
– Are carrying a girl (the thought is you have more hormones in your body)
– Have experienced sickness from birth control pills (the estrogen in the pills has made you ill)
If you find yourself with any symptoms of morning sickness, there are things that you can do at home to try and prevent it from controlling your day to day actions:
– Clean up your diet: Remove processed fatty or sweet food from your diet and replace them with healthy, nutritious options. Invest in a balanced prenatal vitamin and probiotic to ensure that you are giving your body the best chance to achieve the proper vitamin and mineral levels for your body. If you are planning on getting pregnant, it is important to clean up your diet before gestation begins to reduce the symptoms of morning sickness.
– Include magnesium rich foods in your diet: Bone broths, unrefined sea salt, leafy greens and seaweeds! Try them all for the first time or keep adding them into your diet. Magnesium is an incredible aid in balancing cortisol (the stress hormone) and should be continuously added into the diet because pregnancy hormones reduce the absorption of magnesium in our bodies.
– Eat smaller meals that include protein and healthy fats more frequently throughout the day: If you are eating more frequently, you are less likely to leave your stomach empty. Some women find that high carb and protein snacks help relieve the feelings of nausea and stabilize their blood sugar levels. Heart healthy fats help with the production of hormones—especially progesterone and estrogen which are crucial for your pregnancy. You should still get your fruit and vegetable intake in throughout the day but snacking on almonds, eggs, avocado, coconut, or some seedy crackers with nut butter or cheese.
– Sip liquids all day long: There is a wonderful place between feeling dehydrated and water-logged. If you are constantly sipping liquids all day long, you avoid the water-stuffed feeling that can leave you heavy and nauseated. Try making a ginger lemon tea or a hearty bone broth full of magnesium and gelatin. Coconut water can be a great option as well for the electrolyte content. Progesterone relaxes your muscles and can increase your chances of experiencing heartburn. If this is the case, try drinking apple cider vinegar water which can balance your PH and remove the acidic feelings.
– Eat snacks before bed: If you snack on protein before bed, you are lessening your symptoms for the morning by providing your night with a slow release of energy while you are sleeping.
– Prepare for the morning: Some women find it helpful to bring crackers or seeds to their bedside table for when they wake up. Start the day slowly by eating a snack before you get out of bed and sip on liquids too. If you have something in your stomach before you begin walking around, your nausea may lessen.
– Take your time: You have every right to take your time getting out of bed. If you are feeling light headed and tired, stay comfortable. If you have other children who need tending to and you are experiencing morning sickness, ask your partner, family members or friends to come lend a hand. You are going through a life changing process that needs to be respected and nurtured. Love yourself and take your time. You are the one who feels the change, do what you need to do to make sure you are as comfortable and as positive as you can be.
– Use alternative methods of medicine: aromatherapy, homeopathy, acupuncture or acupressure, herbal support, Traditional Chinese Medicine or any practices that you feel drawn to that can support what you are experiencing. Make a spray bottle with some essential oils in it (orange, lemon, lavender, bergamot, peppermint) and spray your pillow, bedding or skin.
– Make sure you talk to your health care professionals: If you are experiencing morning sickness, it is important to keep track of how long it is lasting and what you have been trying to do about it. Keep a food diary and note your symptoms. If you find that natural cures are not providing you with relief, your health care professional may want to give you a prescription to help—usually Dicletin. This prescription is made of vitamin B6 and an antihistamine called doxylamine succinate. It is important to remember that you can say yes or no to this method, but if you are dehydrated, malnourished or are experiencing an energy or mood swing, it is important to hear what your health care provider has to say. At the end of the day, they want you to feel better too and their ideas on morning sickness might actually be the cure for your body.
*If you are constantly vomiting and are starting to deplete your nutrition and liquid intake, you may have Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This can literally be translated to “excessive vomiting in pregnancy.” If you are having a hard time keeping down any food or liquids and are losing weight, you may be lacking in electrolytes and vital nutrients. Hyperemesis Gravidarum can be treated with Dicletin or an IV at the hospital to rehydrate your body. Please consult your health care professional if you have any questions about your morning sickness.
Morning sickness, although uncomfortable, can be one of the many stages of pregnancy. The most important thing to remember during this time is who you are and that these are temporary feelings. Nourish your womb and continue to develop into your new role as a mother. You are a Wise Woman; you can always tune into yourself and find what you need.
For excellent recipes, information and tips on encouraging a rich and natural pregnancy and baby please look to Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care by Sally Falon and Thomas S. Cowan.