The Facts About Morning Sickness

Morning sickness is a misnomer, obviously. While you may feel queasy upon waking and do well the rest of the day, you might also experience low-grade discomfort throughout the whole day and night. Most common for a newly pregnant woman is to wake up with an odd feeling that improves by eating a small amount. Most women vomit only rarely, which, to most, comes as a pleasant surprise. These are the most common symptoms that constitute morning sickness, and it usually does not interfere with a woman's ability to participate in her activities of daily life.

This contrasts greatly with the pregnant woman suffering hyperemesis gravidarum. A true medical condition, this is when a woman cannot tolerate food or liquids. It causes women to vomit frequently throughout the day, threatening dehydration. If no oral fluids stay down, these women will require fluid intravenously. Severe dehydration can ultimately affect the kidneys and cause electrolyte abnormalities. For many years, women were hospitalized for this treatment. Today, intravenous hydration can usually be organized for the home, limiting both the inconvenience to the patient and the cost of treatment. Various medications can be used to treat nausea, but all have potential side effects and risks, so I recommend trying nonpharmacologic remedies first. These include:

-- Eat more frequently but in smaller quantities, trying to keep food in the stomach continuously.
-- Take prenatal vitamins at night instead of the morning.
-- Use liquid antacids.
-- Wear sea-band or wrist pressure bands.

Heartburn is the other upper gastrointestinal distress of pregnancy. In some women, the acid reflux actually triggers a feeling of nausea, so it pays to treat the reflux. There is a very real medical explanation for why heartburn is so common during pregnancy. The hormone progesterone is elevated during pregnancy and relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, the region between the esophagus and the stomach. This sphincter acts as a gate, usually keeping acid in the stomach. When relaxed, as it is during pregnancy, the acid refluxes more easily and causes heartburn. Tums and Rolaids are portable forms of antacids and are also calcium-enriched, so they have become standard fare in the purses of pregnant women. However, I personally feel that the liquid antacids are slightly more effective. As an additional precaution, be sure never to recline within two hours of a meal.

The good news about morning sickness is that most women suffer for only the first 12 to 13 weeks of pregnancy. Then they can look forward to the easy second trimester.

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