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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

Prenatal Problems: Morning Sickness & Hyperemesis Gravidarum

What is it?

Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that occurs in about 2/3 of pregnant women, usually during the first trimester. It is caused by elevated levels of hGC (Human chorionic gondatrophin) - a hormone that is produced by the placenta. It causes issues because it is a new hormone introduced into the system that isn't usually there, so the body often takes a while to "recognize" and "adapt" to it. It is known as "morning sickness" because hGC is usually highest in the morning when first waking up, but it isn't just localized to the morning - it can hit any time of day and last from one incident to hours. For most women, it eases up or goes away during the late first/early second trimester, but can pop up unexpectedly throughout pregnancy. If it is very severe or lasts beyond the first trimester, it is often diagnosed as hyperemesis gravidarum. This is more serious, and can often require hospitalization or medication to treat dehydration, make the nausea bearable, and prevent severe vomiting. Morning sickness itself is usually just treated at the discretion of the mom-to-be, but hyperemesis gravidarum needs to be brought to the attention of a doctor and mom needs to be monitored carefully.

What can I do on my own?

Hyperemesis gravidarum is very serious and should be treated by a doctor, but some of the things recommended for "regular" morning sickness can also be implemented to help curb the nausea. Some tips include:

  • Keep simple small pretzels or unsalted crackers on hand at all times and beside the bed to snack if nausea starts to pop up.

  • Eat or drink foods containing ginger such as tea or candies.

  • Cut up lemon wedges and put in a plastic bag, then inhale the scent as needed.

  • Take a warm bath, but not so long as to get overheated.

  • Try “Sea Bands” - a kind of bracelet for motion sickness - that stimulates the acupressure point P6 (inside of wrist, just under where a watch band would wrap) or press on P6 for about 10 seconds, each wrist separately, about 10 times.

  • Sometimes guided meditation, breathing exercises, or relaxation techniques can help ease nausea.

  • Aromatherapy in an inhaled or topical form using essential oils including Lavender, Ginger, Fennel, and Lemon. Peppermint is also useful in relieving nausea, however peppermint in larger doses is not recommended for use during pregnancy, so it should be used very sparingly.

  • Rest! As difficult as it is because of time, work, and being uncomfortable, try to lay down or lay on a wedge pillow, put feet up, rest and take it easy.

Can Massage Help?

If nausea and vomiting are active, massage is contraindicated until the queasiness has subsided. Massage can’t help the nausea completely go away or stop, however, massage can help calm the nervous system and help the pregnant woman to relax and rest a little. Massage would not focus on the belly or stomach, but more gently over the whole body (arms, legs, neck, shoulders, back, etc) to produce a calming effect and feeling, with possibly some gentle acupressure or reflexology on pregnancy-safe points that help reduce nausea. Even in the first trimester, massage can help the mom feel like she is a little more in control of her body and can help calm down her over-anxious body and mind.

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