It seems counterintuitive, but researchers keep
finding reasons to give morning sickness a high-five. The nausea and vomiting
of pregnancy correlate with lower risks for miscarriage and, later in life,
breast cancer. And in one recent study, the offspring of moms who had morning
sickness scored higher on IQ tests. "Morning sickness indicates that proper
hormones are being made by mom and baby, that the baby's growing and
developing," says Laura Riley, M.D., a fetal/maternal medicine specialist at
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "I see it as a good sign."
That cheery news probably won't make your nausea
easier to bear, but if you feel like hurling, you're in good company. Up to 85
percent of moms-to-be experience nausea; about half report vomiting. Symptoms
typically start four to eight weeks after conception and begin to fade as the
second trimester approaches, though every case has its own idiosyncrasies. "I
was surprised that my 'morning' sickness was worse at night," remembers Wilson
Diehl, 34, a Seattle-based writer who says she "felt carsick all the time." A
few women are queasy the whole nine months.
Keeping it down. Certain smells or
foods can set off symptoms, and sufferers often intuitively avoid those
triggers. When that's not enough to manage a mild case, Riley suggests such traditional remedies as
soda crackers upon arising, frequent but small meals, ginger (candied ginger
and ginger ale are favorites, or 250 milligrams of powdered ginger), ice chips
and lemonade. "Cold, slushy drinks like Italian ices are good," she says.
Experts also advise pairing vitamin B6 with doxylamine, an over-the-counter
antihistamine. Ask your doctor about the recommended proportions.
Some women cope by restricting their diets to simple
carbohydrates, such as mashed potatoes or bread; others find relief from
acupuncture or motion sickness wristbands, like the Sea-Band. Diehl says the
only time she wasn't nauseated was while eating, so she downed bowl after bowl
of cereal and milk. "I tried to focus on the notion that being nauseous
probably meant I was having a healthy pregnancy," she says. "That helped, like,
Whatever you do, don't try to tough it out. When
symptoms intensify, treatment becomes more difficult. Call your doctor if home
remedies don't work, you can't keep food or fluids down or symptoms continue
past the fourth month. "You don't want to get dehydrated or lose too much
weight," Riley warns. While it's not unusual for women with significant morning
sickness to drop a few pounds in the first trimester, a severe case, when left
untreated, can cause a 10-percent loss in body weight. Many women hesitate to take drugs during pregnancy, but the medications your doctor will prescribe are safe and
effective. They can help prevent the condition from progressing to the point
that it requires intravenous hydration or even a feeding tube.
Diehl's vomiting responded well to prescription
anti-nausea medications, though she still felt queasy until week 20 of her
pregnancy. "When the morning sickness stopped, I felt like I'd gotten my life
back," she says. "And I immediately went out for Ethiopian food."
Who gets the sickest? Severe
morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum, afflicts 0.5 percent to 2 percent
of pregnant women and requires medical treatment. At higher risk are women who
are carrying multiples or had hyperemesis in a previous pregnancy. Being
pregnant with a female fetus also raises the risk, as does having a mother or
sister who suffered from the condition.