You don’t need to explain morning sickness to most women who have been pregnant. Just mentioning the term brings back all the miserable sensations. The primary symptom is nausea that may or may not be accompanied by vomiting, cold intolerance, and fatigue. Despite the name, morning sickness can strike any time of the day or night. In severe cases, called hyperemesis gravidarum, the severe vomiting can cause dehydration, imbalances in electrolytes, high ketone levels in the urine, and other potentially life-threatening disorders that require hospitalization.
Why First Trimester
A woman in her first trimester is the most likely candidate, with approximately 40 percent of women reporting that morning sickness stopped suddenly toward the end of the first trimester. However, some women are still nauseated while they are in labor; and some experience nausea with all, some, or none of their pregnancies. The only absolute rule is that there are no reported cases of morning sickness lasting after delivery.
No one knows what causes morning sickness, although there are many theories. A common one is that morning sickness is brought on by changes in hormone levels, such as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), the hormone that indicates pregnancy in blood and urine tests. HCG levels are high during the first trimester, which correlates with the rise and fall of morning sickness in some women. Rising estrogen levels or slowed stomach emptying have also been blamed, while another theory points to the degenerative products given off by the fertilized egg implanting in the uterine lining.
Of course, emotional and psychological factors cannot be ruled out. Stress sets off bouts of morning sickness, while a restful environment often helps curb the nausea. Even hearing about an offensive food can make some pregnant women sick. Some nausea may become a learned response, an idea supported by testimonies from mothers who say they experience the same symptoms of morning sickness, but to a lesser degree, after pregnancy if they listen to music they repeatedly heard when they were pregnant.
The knowledge that your body is going to change radically for several months can be distressing if you have worked hard to stay in control of your figure and fitness. For the working woman, the unpredictability and social taboo of nausea and vomiting can be devastating.
Regardless of the cause, morning sickness is real. It does not reflect a lack of control, a neurotic personality, or a woman with misgivings about her womanhood, her pregnancy, or her baby. It requires support and encouragement, and a tool kit of strategies for getting through the storm.