It seems everyone who ever encounters a pregnant woman asks the same question: “How are you feeling?” This just seems like the appropriate question for someone who is in the process of growing a new human being inside her body. Many people will take this to another level though, by making the blanket statement, “Don’t worry. You’re far enough along now that you’ll be over it soon.” The general consensus is that pregnant women experience morning sickness during the first trimester and then the symptoms of nausea, lightheadedness, and vomiting simply disappear. For many women, this is the case, but what about the other women? What about the women who experience extreme sickness all day throughout their entire pregnancies?

Stomach upset and vomiting are experienced by nearly all women during pregnancy. In fact, these symptoms are considered by many to be a rite of passage and are often the first thing a woman notices in terms of pregnancy side effects. These feelings are usually relatively mild and are only bothersome during the first few hours a woman is awake. About 1% of women though, will deal with a more serious issue called hyperemesis gravidarum. This sickness can be so severe that it requires hospitalization and can even be fatal. Unfortunately, little is really known about the condition, and the research community doesn’t seem terribly pressed to find ways to help women handle it safely and effectively.

What doctors do know is that while there used to be a belief that nausea and vomiting during pregnancy were purely psychological and pointed to a mother who didn’t want the baby she was carrying or didn’t like the man who fathered the child, the true cause behind it seems to be fairly complex—and physiological rather than psychological. There are many unknowns about “morning” sickness. Each woman experiences her pregnancy symptoms differently, and while one woman is suffering from debilitating illness, another will have mild or almost no symptoms at all. Many researchers believe that a combination of hormones and genetics, as well as environmental factors including nutrition, lifestyle choices, and physical activity, make a woman more or less prone to experiencing sickness. Likewise, there are some women who seem to be more likely to develop the most severe symptoms. Young mothers who are carrying little girls seem to be at the highest risk of dealing with these symptoms.

These symptoms may sound pretty terrifying, but there are ways mothers can overcome them. Intravenous fluids and nutrients often make a tremendous difference in how a woman feels, but even simple choices such as eating crackers before getting out of bed or sipping an electrolyte beverage throughout the day can be incredibly helpful.

The Research Council of Norway (2013, February 26). When morning sickness lasts all day. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2013