About half of all pregnant women experience morning sickness. You may be surprised to learn that the nausea, heartburn, and vomiting traditionally associated with morning sickness can strike your partner at any hour of the day.
No one's quite sure what causes morning sickness. Some suggest that it's a reaction to the pregnant woman's changing hormone levels. Others, such as researcher Margie Profet, suggest that morning sickness is the body's natural way of protecting the growing fetus from teratogins (toxins that cause birth defects) and abortifacients (toxins that induce miscarriage). Either way, fortunately for most women morning sickness disappears after about the third month. Until then, here are a few things you can do to help your partner cope:
- Help her maintain a high-protein, high-carbohydrate diet.
- Encourage her to drink a lot of fluid—especially milk. You might also want to keep a large water bottle next to the bed. She should avoid caffeine, which tends to be dehydrating. She might want to start the day with a small amount of juice or flat soda. The sweet flavor will probably encourage her to drink a little more than she might otherwise.
- Be sensitive to the sights and smells that make her queasy—and keep them away from her. Fatty or spicy foods are frequent offenders.
- Encourage her to eat a lot of small meals throughout the day; every two or three hours, if possible. She should also try to eat something before she starts feeling nauseated. She should eat basic foods like rice and yogurt. These are particularly good because they are less likely to cause nausea than greasy foods.
- Make sure she takes her prenatal vitamins.
- Put some pretzels, crackers, or rice cakes by the bed—she'll need something to start and end the day with, and these are low in fat and calories.
- Be aware that she needs plenty of rest and encourage her to get it.
Remember that despite the name, morning sickness can happen at any time of the day. And don't be surprised if it disappears and then returns a few weeks later. For some women it actually lasts the entire pregnancy.
For the vast majority of women, morning sickness isn't a serious condition, and it poses no risk to your baby. It's unpleasant, but it's not life-threatening. Some women, though, experience a combination of complete lack of appetite and excessive vomiting. If this sounds like your partner, make sure her doctor knows about it right away. If she doesn't get treatment she could end up malnourished or dehydrated, neither of which is good for her or the baby.