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Pregnancy Related Nausea and Vomiting

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

What Causes Morning Sickness?

Learn when morning sickness will typically end.

There's no clear consensus within the medical community on what causes morning sickness. This unpleasant symptom has been associated with many varied conditions but two theories are popular.

The first theory suggests that morning sickness is a reaction to the physical changes taking place within the body. A second theory suggests that morning sickness is a reaction to stress - the psychological stress of becoming a mommy. In the early stages of pregnancy, some women experience feelings of ambivalence and even regret about what the future holds. Some doctors suggest that this ambivalence may be a contributing factor to the occurrence of morning sickness.

Other factors may also be involved to one degree or another. For your own reference, the causes of morning sickness aren't known for certain but may include some of the following:

  • On-going stress

  • Ambivalence about the pregnancy

  • Increased hormone levels

  • Slower digestion

  • Increased sensitivity to smells

  • Missing nutrients from the diet, i.e. zinc

  • Fluctuating rates of metabolism (low blood sugar)

What Doesn't Cause Morning Sickness

Hairy babies. Baby doesn't even have hair on her head at this point. Hair follicles, yes. Hair as we know it, no.

If baby is a girl, mom feels nauseous; if baby is a boy, mom feels fine. While many moms and dads long to know baby's gender right from the get-go, nausea (or lack of it) is not proof of baby's gender. Sorry, you'll have to wait twenty weeks like the rest of us to find out the answer to that particular mystery.

Baby is using all of your nutrients and your body is retaliating. Just not so.

First time moms automatically have morning sickness, but with subsequent pregnancies will not. There is no morning sickness "rite of passage." You may have an iron stomach next time. Or, you may or may not feel more, sick with future pregnancies. Just one of life's little mysteries.

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How Does Morning Sickness Affect You?

Are you sick simply because you're awake? Is it the smell of hubby's aftershave? The sight of your seven-year-old's spaghetti? The time of day (or night)?

One Pennsylvania mom expecting her second child called 11 a.m. her "witching hour." No matter where she was and no matter what she ate (or didn't eat), waves of weak-kneed willies overcame her at 11 a.m. and she became uncontrollably ill. She couldn't stop her nausea, but she could stop it from wreaking havoc on her family.

Her solution? She set her alarm clock a little earlier and did her household chores before her preschooler woke up. She drove the drop-off portion of the preschool carpool, did all her errands between 9:15 and 10:55, and settled herself at home with water, crackers, and a good book. The other carpool moms picked up her little girl at school and brought her home. Lunch for the little one? Peanut butter and jelly on mom's crackers. Mom and preschooler settled down together for a nap after lunch, and when they woke up, mom was herself again. Witching hour over.

If you only experience a brief period of queasiness each day, consider yourself lucky. A few minutes of bathroom time and lookout boardroom here you come.

Ready for the end of morning sickness?

It ends. You will be able to eat again. You will be able to walk past a butcher shop again. You will be able to eat at your favorite restaurant again. You will feel human again. Guaranteed.

Most women wake up sometime around their fourteenth week and realize that their stomach is no longer doing cartwheels and that food is appetizing once again. Notice I said most women. There are a small percentage of women for whom this particular ailment is a gift which keeps on giving...well into the second trimester, even occasionally right up until delivery. My heart truly goes out to those poor women. A wonderful phenomenon occurs once that baby arrives, however. Mom declares all that toilet time a small price to pay for the blessing she receives at the end. Or, she suddenly "realizes" she wasn't as miserable as she first thought she was. Doctors call this Baby Amnesia and it's a powerful phenomenon. Maybe even a necessary thing for the continuation of the human species.

Morning Sickness Hardly an Exclusively Morning Experience

More than half of all pregnant women experience nausea - with or without vomiting during early pregnancy. Some international research shows that number may actually be as high as 90%. Not much explanation for the symptoms, but the good news - if you're looking for goodness in all that queasiness - is that morning sickness is considered a positive symptom by many physicians. It means your hormones are raging and that queasy feeling will help you stop some unhealthy habits, like eating fast food or smoking.

That's not to say that you should worry if you're part of that lucky 50% who can look at breakfast without losing last night's dinner.

Morning sickness is not always a fair description of pregnancy-related nausea, because it's hardly an exclusively morning experience. Hollywood movies and television often show women bolting out of bed, racing to the bathroom room, vomiting, brushing their teeth, and getting on with the rest of their day. If that's what you experience, congratulations. You've got Hollywood Morning Sickness. Other women have "Half Day Sickness" or "All Day Sickness." Moms with the all day variety may wonder how they will ever gain weight during pregnancy. Don't worry, the weight will come when it's supposed to. It always does.

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