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Morning sickness: this helps!

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The aroma of fresh coffee wafts through the flat. But what sounds delectable is for many pregnant women no pleasure at all. This is because in pregnancy the senses of smell and taste are particularly sharpened. At the same time, the stomachs of many women are often queasy in the mornings, and in others in the afternoons or at night. "Nausea and vomiting at the start of pregnancy affects nearly three-quarters of expectant mothers," says Professor Dr. Gerald Gitsch, Medical Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical Center - University of Freiburg.

For these women, being "in the family way" begins with their feeling wretched. The reasons why they are sick, when other pregnant women flourish, have not so far been clarified definitively. "A combination of various influences is likely," says Gitsch. Estrogen appears to be responsible, as well as the pregnancy hormone HCG which is produced in the placenta. But disturbances of the thyroid, anxiety, problems or stress can also strengthen the symptoms. Professor Gitsch: "Talking less about the nausea can already help the women affected."

But Professor Gitsch also has good news: "Normal pregnancy sickness is unpleasant for the mother, but is not dangerous to the unborn child." Nausea generally occurs between the 5th and 14th weeks. This is the time when all the baby's organs, arms, legs, ears and nose are created. After this the child grows rapidly - and nausea and vomiting usually disappear as quickly as they have come. However, the severe form of morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum - from which Duchess Kate for example suffered with her first two children - can be dangerous. Here, the nausea continues throughout the day. "If the woman vomits more than five times a day, shows signs of inadequate food intake and loses weight, it is called hyperemesis gravidarum," says Professor Gitsch. About two per cent of pregnant women are affected: predominantly young, slim non-smokers and women expecting twins. Women who have smoked before pregnancy, are overweight or over 35 years old are less likely to suffer from it.

"A pregnant woman should always go to the doctor about nausea and vomiting - and immediately of course if she cannot keep down any food or loses weight," advises Professor Gitsch.

Experts' tips for morning sickness:

  • Avoid fatty, very sugary, strongly flavored, fried and spicy foods.
  • Drink sugar-free non-carbonated beverages, for example water or tea.
  • Before getting up, drink lightly sweetened tea or a glass of orange juice, and eat a rusk. Afterward, lay in bed for about another 20 minutes.
  • Eat several small meals throughout the day. These should contain more carbohydrates than usual. In case of nausea, lots of dietary fiber from fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, plenty of protein and very little fat are recommended.
  • Avoid odors to which you are sensitive during pregnancy. These are often coffee, meat or perfume.
  • Do not use vitamin products before the 15th or 16th week of pregnancy. Professor Gitsch: "To start with, pregnant women need only an adequate amount of folic acid." Additional vitamins could affect the stomach since it has to dissolve the capsules. This can in turn aggravate the nausea.
  • Simple home remedies also sometimes help: for example water with lemon slices or the smell of green apples.