Morning Sickness: Causes and Coping

Little Fetus, Lots of Nausea

As any veteran will tell you, morning sickness bears a striking resemblance to a hangover -- your stomach is knotted with nausea, which may be accompanied by vomiting, headache, and fatigue. This whopper of a hangover plagues most sufferers during the first trimester and then tapers off.

But the malaise of morning sickness isn't an indication that something is out of whack; quite the opposite, in fact. Experts believe that it's actually a sign that your pregnancy is progressing normally. "We have seen higher rates of low birth weight babies and miscarriage in women who didn't have any morning sickness," says Diane Ashton, MD, associate medical director of the March of Dimes in White Plains, New York. The reason? The rapid rise in pregnancy hormones that spurs the nausea may also indicate normal, healthy development of the fetus and placenta. Even though 50 to 80 percent of women experience morning sickness, plenty sail through pregnancy without a hint of the queasies and still give birth to healthy babies.

This stationary seasickness may have other protective properties, too. Pregnancy hormones also heighten a woman's sense of smell, which may induce nausea. And a supersensitive sniffer may act as a woman's internal warning system, helping her avoid any foods that may harm the fetus during the critical first trimester. Research bears this out. In 2000, researchers at Cornell University examined thousands of pregnancies and determined that morning sickness peaks between weeks 6 and 18 of pregnancy -- which is the most crucial time for fetal organ development.

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