When you get pregnant, your body gives you certain hints. Some may be subtle like food cravings and tender, swollen breasts. But some hints are blatant like morning sickness or nausea gravidarum – the nausea and vomiting during the early months of pregnancy.

Most pregnant women experience this long, sickening phase of nausea, vomiting and dizziness mostly in the first trimester of pregnancy. Some could continue to experience them throughout their pregnancy. They may or may not be triggered by certain smells. And the biggest misconception about morning sickness is that women experience it only in the morning. The fact is that it can affect women anytime of the day.

It has all got to do with the changes in your body

A rapidly rising blood level of a hormone called the human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) released by the placenta stimulates the maternal ovaries to secrete oestrogen, which is believed to cause the nausea. The increased sensitivity to odours may also stimulate and trigger nausea. Also, it is thought that an increase in progesterone hormone may relax the muscles of the stomach and intestines thereby causing excess stomach acids and acid reflux disease resulting in nausea and vomiting.

Cheer up! It could be good for your baby

Your body has defence against the food toxins you consume. But the baby inside you doesn’t.  Hence, it is believed that morning sickness is an evolved feature to protect your baby against toxins ingested by you.

It may also protect you in certain ways. Your immune system is subdued during pregnancy to reduce the chances of your body rejecting the growing foetus. This could put you at risk from parasites and harmful bacteria present in animal products. Nausea and vomiting may help you expel them from your body.

It can get nasty for a few

A few pregnant women may have severe, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy which can cause dehydration, weight loss, and decreased potassium levels. Such a condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum.

Some relief measures

Morning sickness may stop around the 12th week of pregnancy for most women and most of them usually don’t need treatment. Fortunately the body has reserves, so if nutrition is not optimum the baby is not compromised.  Vitamin B6 may help decrease nausea in early pregnancy. But consult your doctor before taking any medicines.

Here are a few tips to deal with morning sickness:

  • Avoid foods and smells that trigger your nausea.
  • Relax. Get plenty of rest.
  • Do not worry about eating a balanced diet. Have smaller meals and dry toast or biscuits with every mini meal.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Sipping iced water could offer some relief from nausea and vomiting.
  • Ginger is thought to be effective against morning sickness. You can either have small slivers of ginger or sip a tea made from grated root ginger.
  • Peppermint, an energy booster, is another remedy. You can either smell it or use it in your tea.

If your nausea and vomiting is very severe (hyperemesis gravidarum) you may need to be admitted in the hospital to receive fluid and nutrition through an intravenous line. Your doctor may also prescribe certain medicines.