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Morning Sickness Misery

Whether it's in the morning or all day long, pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting can be debilitating. Here are some ways to muddle through the misery.
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Jennifer Dansicker says the term morning sickness is a misnomer. "It's really 'all day' sickness," she says. "Six weeks of constant, undeniable, miserable nausea and vomiting."

During Dansicker's first pregnancy, she followed all the advice that well-meaning friends and family members doled out. Crackers, bland foods, apple cider vinegar, lots of water -- but nothing curbed the nausea or stopped the vomiting. "I stopped eating altogether and lost 15 pounds," Dansicker recalls. "I was a mess."

The next time around, Dansicker made a concerted effort to learn more about what was going on in her own body. "I took a more scientific approach to the problem," she says. "I knew that my body was producing extra hormones and that my chemical balance was out of whack because of that. So I decided to just keep eating through the nausea and the vomiting."

Dansicker ate her way through her morning sickness with fruit, proteins -- such as peanut butter, turkey sandwiches, and meat sauce served over pasta -- and bread. "I noticed that I vomited less and the nausea subsided when I continued to eat all day long even after and during the vomiting and nausea," she says.

She says she had more energy the second around, and the nausea didn't seem quite as bad as the last time, in part, she believes, because she was keeping her body, and in turn, her mind, strong with all the nutrients.

By the end of week 13, the nausea subsided and the vomiting stopped, says Dansicker. "I think the real key to fighting morning sickness is to eat through it with a variety of foods. It won't stop the nausea or vomiting but it will considerably help you manage it."

Dansicker is certainly not unique in suffering from morning sickness. According to Peter Degnan, MD, director of integrated medicine at Equinox Health and Healing, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, morning sickness affects 50%-80% of pregnant women, and a third of those experience vomiting as well.

Some women report that the intensity of morning sickness-related vomiting is worse than that of chemotherapy, says Degnan. And like Dansicker herself found out, for a large majority of women with morning sickness, nausea lasts throughout the day.

Doctors don't know for sure exactly what causes morning sickness, but most likely, multiple factors are responsible, such as an increase in hormones and the physiological changes associated with pregnancy, says Cathryn Tobin, MD, author of The Parent's Problem Solver.

When working with pregnant women, Degnan likes to take as natural an approach as possible. Among his suggestions:

  • Keep crackers, dry toast, or cereal at the bedside, and eat something before getting out of bed in the morning. These bland, carbohydrate-based foods help lessen nausea.
  • Eat small amounts throughout the day to avoid becoming too full, or alternately, too hungry.
  • Consider changing to an iron-free prenatal vitamin if you are not anemic, but check with your doctor first.
  • Ginger -- in tea, candied, or in capsules -- can be effective in fighting nausea. Don't exceed more than 1,000 mg of ginger a day.
  • Raspberry tea has been used by many pregnant women to ease morning sickness; there is currently some debate about its safety, however, so don't drink this without speaking to your physician first.
  • Vitamin B-6 also provides relief for many pregnant women; don't take more than 25 mg a day, and again, consult your doctor first.

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