Morning sickness while pregnant

Originally Published: April 27, 2001
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Dear Alice,

Why do women get morning sickness during their pregnancy?

Dear Reader,

Morning sickness is usually an early pregnancy condition that some, but not all, women experience. It typically involves nausea and sometimes vomiting, often in the A.M. but not exclusively. Despite the fact that between 50 - 80 percent of pregnant women experience some degree of morning sickness, little is known about its cause. In the past, it has been attributed to some character weakness of the expectant mother. Women who had severe morning sickness were thought to have negative feelings about the pregnancy or future baby.

Today, it is generally believed that morning sickness is the result of sudden hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. These hormonal changes slow the digestion process, making it harder to break down certain types of food. The following eating tips from the American Academy of Family Physicians may be helpful to those who are morning sick:

  • Pass up rich foods.
  • Stay away from foods that have aromas or an appearance that's unsettling to the stomach.
  • Have several small meals, instead of three large ones, daily to help keep the stomach from becoming too full or totally empty, which can aggravate nausea. Sometimes snacking on soda crackers before you lift your head from the pillow in the morning makes a difference.
  • Eat carbohydrate rich foods (e.g., potatoes, rice, or toast).
  • Replenish fluids during breaks between meals.
  • Stock up on soda crackers, gelatin treats, ice pops, regular ginger ale, herbal teas, and chicken broth.

To learn more about coping with morning sickness, check out the following resources:

  • The New Well Pregnancy Book, by Mike and Nancy Samuels
  • The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth, by Sheila Kitzinger