17 Facts about pregnancy sickness

Q. What is the most common pregnancy craving?
A. For men to be the ones who get pregnant
(A joke)

by Elia Strange

I was always wondering - why pregnant women get 'sick' and why they crave some weird things like eating a piece of chalk, lipstick, 'stinky' fish (that's common for Russians, and I do love fish too), or some other 'inedible' things.

When my brother's wife became pregnant and I was told that 'she is sick pretty much all the time', so I decided to do some research. A few academic journals and books (and several hours of research later), I found some interesting facts that you can read below.

Pregnancy sickness is a pretty stressful symptom not only for pregnant women but for their concerned family members too.

Current research shows that there are certain reasons to why this happens and what to do about it.

I hope you'll find this summary of research as interesting as I did:

1. Nausea is experienced by about 80% of pregnant women(1)

2. Vomiting is experienced by approximately 60% of pregnant women(1)

3. Sickness and vomiting may be so severe, that many pregnant women are forced to abort their pregnancy(2)

4. Morning sickness may occur at any time of the day, not only in the morning(3)

5. Absence of nausea and vomiting do not mean that the pregnancy is not healthy(4)

6. Presence of nausea and vomiting do not guarantee the success of pregnancy(4)

7. This period of sickness and vomiting usually lasts for only 1/3 of the pregnancy(4)

8. Nausea and vomiting cannot harm the baby (embryo)(4)

9. If you feel sick from the smell of certain veggies or some fried food, it doesn’t mean you should avoid them(4)

10. However, if you have developed an aversion to certain foods, do not force yourself to eat them (for example because you believe you need certain vitamins). Have a look at the alternatives(4)

11. The pregnancy sickness and vomiting are strongly linked to the diet she followed prior her pregnancy and during the initial stages of the pregnancy(5)

12. For example, high intake of sugars, stimulants, meat, milk and eggs are linked to nausea and vomiting in pregnancy(5)

13. Low intake of cereals and pulses is also linked to nausea and vomiting in pregnancy(5)

14. The feelings of nausea and sickness tend to occur when the pregnant woman has been eating something that is toxic or poisonous for the fetus. Adults gradually develop an immunity to many foods, but for the fetus they may be toxic(6)

15. Sickness and vomiting in pregnant women may be also related to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy(3)

16. There are certain drugs that can be prescribed by doctors to relieve morning sickness, but there is still an uncertainty about side effects that may negatively affect the fetus (as it happened in the 1950s with Thalidomide where around 10,000 babies were born with stunted arms or legs, or with no limbs at all)(2)

17. BUPA advice for reducing nausea:(3)

- Get plenty of rest

- Eat little and often

- Avoid smells and tastes that make you feel sick

- Ginger biscuits and ginger tea may help with sickness

- Sometimes acupuncture may also help

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(1)Bayley, T.M., Dye, L., Jones, S., DeBono, M., & Hill, A.J. (2002). Food cravings and aversions during pregnancy: relationships with nausea and vomiting. Appetite, 38 (1), 45-51.

(3)BUPA. (2011). Pregnancy Health. Retrieved from the BUPA Web site: http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/health-information/directory/p/pregnancy-problems

(2)Independent. (2011). Rise in abortions amongst mothers denied morning sickness drug. Retrieved the Independent Web site: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/rise-in-abortions-among-mothers-denied-morning-sickness-drugs-2269220.html

(5)Pepper, G.V. & Roberts, S.C. (2006). Rates of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and dietary characteristics across populations. Proceedings of the Royal Society, 273, 2675-2679.

(6)Profet, M. (1992). Pregnancy sickness as adaptation: A deferent to maternal ingestion of teratogens. In J.H. Barlow, I. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

(4)Sherman, P.W. & Flaxman, S.M. (2002). Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy in an evolutionary perspective. American Journal of Obstetrician and Gynaecology, 186 (5), 190-197.

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