Morning sickness - beneficial to mother and baby?

BlogHer Original Post

When I became pregnant with my first child after a 13-month long roller-coaster ride of trying to conceive (including two rounds of IUI - intrauterine insemination), I admit that at first I welcomed morning sickness with open arms. However it didn't take long for the novelty to wear off and it became a sort of love-hate relationship. I loved the dry heaves I experienced every morning for the first trimester of my pregnancy for the reassurance they provided me that a life really was growing within me. But I also loathed the waves of nausea that lasted most of the day, especially when I needed to carry on with my 9 to 5 job, business as usual.

I think for most women, morning sickness is a mixed bag - a blessing and a curse if you will. It would be nice to know that those barfy feelings are somehow contributing to towards a healthy pregnancy, wouldn't it?

I recently came upon a study (from 2000) that shows morning sickness does, in fact, serve an actual beneficial function for both mama and baby, which may be some consolation to the women currently in the throes of it. According to the study performed by Cornell University evolutionary biologists Samuel M. Flaxman and Paul W. Sherman, morning sickness, or what they report as NVP (nausea and vomiting in pregnancy), "is Mother Nature's way of protecting both mother and fetus from food-born illness and also shielding the fetus from chemicals that can deform fetal organ at the most critical time in development."

The analysis of hundreds of studies covering tens of thousands of pregnancies suggests that morning sickness and the aversion to potentially harmful foods is the body's way of preserving wellness of the mother at a time when her immune system is naturally suppressed (to prevent rejection of the child that is developing in her uterus) and has reduced defenses against food-borne pathogens.

By creating food aversion, NVP also protects against toxins from microorganisms and other teratogenic (fetal organ-deforming) chemicals, Sherman says. "At that same time, in the first trimester of pregnancy, the cells of the tiny embryo are differentiating and starting to form structures. Those developing structures and organ systems -- such as arms and legs, eyes and the central nervous system -- at this critical stage of a new life could be adversely affected by the teratogenic phytochemicals in some food plants," Sherman says. These chemicals are secondary compounds that plants make to defend themselves against disease and insects.

I'd like to think that if I were pregnant these findings would make me slightly more appreciative of my daily dry heaves. Of course that's easy for me to say now since my cereal stays down every morning.

Steph at Adventures in Babywearing, on the other hand, who recently announced that she's expecting baby number four, is dealing with morning sickness and would rather be in bed than keeping up with housework. Hey, I feel that way most days too and I'm not even pregnant. ;)

I am first of all, really excited about being preggy for the first time as a blogger. Kinda cool. Except that so far I do not even feel like sitting here at the computer. I'd rather be under the covers in my bed. And that's pretty much where I've been. I am taking each chance that I actually feel well to catch up on housework that's been neglected while I do nothing and try to get my mind off this stomach that is torturing my every waking moment. Poor hubby came out of the shower with an elephant hoody towel yesterday. So laundry is at the top of the list.

And Marie at Makes and Takes wants to know who named it morning sickness anyway?

I am sorry, but most pregnant people I know can say that “morning sickness” is not only in the morning. Who ever came up with that term should be tortured. ... I am better now [with morning sickness] than at the beginning, but I think I have finally come to terms that it is never going away. And until my belly started to pop out, I was under the impression that I had a serious illness. Thankfully, there is a baby inside and eventually the “morning sickness” will have to end, at least come June.

Marie would probably appreciate this, also from the article.

Acknowledging what most women already know, Sherman points out that the term morning sickness, "is a complete misnomer…NVP doesn't occur just in the morning but at any time during the waking hours, and it's not a sickness in the pathological sense." He adds that, "we should change the name to wellness insurance."

Julie at Pinkmorning asks "Are you kidding me?" after discovering that the medicine she was prescribed to help with her morning sickness has side effects including nausea and vomiting! Now that's just wrong.

so my doctor prescribed me some medicine to help ease my nausea since i haven't been able to keep much down and at my thirteen week appointment my morning sickness had not yet started to subside. i was reading the information on this medicine and the side effects include: dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, blurred vision, and vomiting...are you kidding me?? so to help with my nausea, i was prescribed a medicine that has nausea and vomiting as side effects?? i found this laughable, but decided to give it a whirl anyway because i am so tired of feeling sick. my doctor said i should know within a few days if it was working or not. so a few days after taking it, i was sicker than i was before...throwing up multiple times at work and at home...i stopped taking it but have not started feeling better at all.

Poor Julie. That sounds so miserable. Hopefully she will start feeling better on her own very soon or perhaps find a natural remedy to make it a little more bearable.

There's much more to the study than I've reported here, and it's definitely worth a read if you are pregnant and dealing with NVP or know someone who is. It's really quite fascinating the way a woman's body can take care of her and her unborn child.

The biologists say that ultimately pregnant women should "listen to their bodies" when deciding what they should or should not eat. That's sound advice on so many levels. I couldn't agree more.

Contributing editor Amy Gates also blogs about attachment parenting, activism, green living and photography at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.

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