Lee Rodwell on avoiding the feelings of nausea
Angela Binns lost two stones in the first eight months of her first pregnancy because nearly everything she ate or drank came up again. During her second pregnancy, she was so sick that she was admitted to hospital on several occasions, suffering from dehydration.

"I got the feeling the doctors and nurses thought I was bringing on the sickness myself to get attention," says Angela, who lives in Newcastle. "They even sent a psychiatrist along who kept asking if everything was all right at home."

These days few doctors still put pregnancy sickness - even when it is severe and prolonged - down to psychological reasons. No one knows for sure what causes it, although it seems likely that the a centre in the brain is activated due to the change of hormone levels which occur during pregnancy.

About a half of pregnant women suffer to some degree, their symptoms ranging from mild sickness in the morning to all-day nausea and frequent vomiting. Most - unlike Angela - find that the problem disappears soon after the 12th week. Until then, what what can you do?

Feeling tired can make the sickness worse, so rest as much as you can. Give yourself time to get up slowly in the morning, if you feel sick then. Nibble some dry toast or a plain biscuit before you get out of bed.

Wear comfortable clothes and avoid tight waistbands. Fresh air and a little gentle exercise, such as a short walk at lunchtime, may help, too.

Try eating little but often, instead of sticking to three main meals a day. Do not stop eating altogether. Drink plenty of fluids. Carbonated water may reduce nausea.

Steer clear of foods and smells that make you feel worse. Get someone else to take over the cooking, or go for bland, non-greasy choices such as baked potatoes or pasta, which are also easy to prepare. A snack before bedtime may also make you feel less sick in the morning.

Homoeopaths often prescribe the plant extract ipecacuana, but other remedies may be more appropriate in individual cases. Herbalists often recommend peppermint or ginger.

Some women have been helped by using Sea-Bands, which are available from most pharmacists. Based on the Chinese principle of acupressure, the bands exert pressure on the points inside each wrist which are said to control the harmonisation of the digestion and stomach.

Further information

The HEA Pregnancy Book and the Birth to Five Book are given free to all first time mothers in England; Sainsbury's/Wellbeing Eating for Pregnancy Helpline, telephone 0114 242 4084 (24 hours);

HEA Leaflets


Give your baby a head start;

Folic acid: what all women should know;

From milk to mixed feeding;

Play it safe;

Guide to childhood immunisation;

(All available free from health promotion units)

Further reading Healthy Mum: Healthy Baby, Wendy Doyle Headway pounds 4.99; Healthy Eating for You and Your Baby by Fiona Ford, Robert Fraser and Hilary Dimond Pan pounds 5.99;

Your Pregnancy Diary, HEA, pounds 7.99, available from 01235 465565.