Around the eleventh week of my second pregnancy, after yet another mad dash to the bathroom, I plopped down on the couch next to my 4-year-old daughter, Ellie. "Wow, Mom, you've had the stomach bug forever!" she said. I smiled weakly, wishing that morning sickness came and went as quickly as the stomach flu. Instead, for weeks on end, it seemed like practically everything made my insides flip.
Most mothers know what I'm talking about: Experts estimate that 70 to 80 percent of pregnant women suffer from nausea, and half of those from vomiting as well. And calling it "morning sickness" isn't quite right -- women typically have symptoms all day long.
My one small comfort was knowing that I wouldn't feel like this forever; morning sickness almost always subsides by the sixteenth week of pregnancy.The News on Nausea
Though no one knows for sure what causes morning sickness, experts point to increased levels of hormones traveling through a pregnant woman's body. "These hormones are thought to stimulate a woman's brain, making her more susceptible to queasiness," says Nicole Yost, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas. Other researchers theorize that morning sickness evolved to prevent pregnant women from eating foods (such as meat and poultry) that are most likely to contain microorganisms and pathogens -- contaminants that have the potential to harm a developing fetus. Certain factors seem to increase a woman's risk for morning sickness, including being overweight, having a naturally sensitive stomach, or carrying multiples. "We've also found that if you have morning sickness with your first pregnancy, you're likely to suffer from it with each subsequent baby," Dr. Yost adds.
Even if nausea temporarily keeps you from eating a balanced diet, there's usually no reason to fear for your baby's health. "During the first trimester, a baby's body is focused not on growth but on organ formation, which requires few additional nutrients," explains Bonnie Dattel, M.D., associate director of maternal and fetal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, in Norfolk. "You'll be back to eating normally by the time his nutritional needs increase."