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Women often first know they are pregnant by the beginning of a phenomenon misnamed morning sickness. A condition of nausea and vomiting that can begin during the first few days of pregnancy and can last through the entire nine months
Ten Tips for Morning Sickness in Early Pregnancy and BeyondMorning sickness can occur morning, noon, evening, and night, causing women digestive misery when they need to be eating for two. Morning sickness seems to be the body's way of protecting the baby from mutagenic agents that may appear in food. Especially during the first three months of pregnancy, the developing embryo is especially at risk to DNA damage from food-borne chemicals.
Some naturally occurring chemicals, present even in organic food, can cause damage to the embryo's DNA. These include vitamin A (in megadoses). Cream, butter, liver, and cod liver oil are all very high in vitamin A and very likely to trigger morning sickness.
Toxins released by molds on food can also damage the baby, by acting as anti-vitamins. Molds on rice, corn, and potatoes have been linked to specific kinds of birth defects. These molds are rare in modern food, but a woman's body may be very protective of the unborn baby and very sensitive to foods that otherwise would seem to be settling for upset stomach.
There are also some foods that counteract harmful chemicals in food. Vinegar, for example, slows the passage of food through the digestive tract so that any toxic food substances are more likely to be destroyed by stomach acid before they can pass into the bloodstream. Many pregnant women get strange cravings for pickles. The auraptin in orange juice detoxifies a group of industrial chemicals known as the TCDD's. Many pregnant women get cravings for orange juice. These cravings and aversions are probably just a biological response that protects the developing embryo.
Up to 91% of pregnant women, experts tell us, experience mild nausea, especially during the first 6 to 8 weeks of pregnancy. Up to 55% of women experience vomiting during the first trimester of pregnancy. Women in their teens, women in their first pregnancy, women who smoke, and women who are overweight or obese are more susceptible to morning sickness. Carrying twins or triplets increases morning sickness. Usually the effects of morning sickness are less severe in the second and subsequent pregnancies.
About 2 to 3% of women experience a much more severe phenomenon called hyperemesis gravidarum. Emesis refers to vomiting, and gravidas refers to pregnancy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is a condition of vomiting during early pregnancy that causes women to lose weight, rather than gaining it, along with disturbances in electrolytes. Women who have hyperemesis gravidarum may have swollen ankles, overactive (rather than underactive) thyroid, abdominal pain, excessive salivation (ptyalism), and ketones in their urine as their bodies burn fat. The primary symptom of hyperemesis gravidarum is vomiting that just won't stop.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is something a doctor has to treat. Morning sickness, in contrast, is a condition most women can treat on their own.
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