Morning Sickness is a common ‘condition’ of early pregnancy. Up to 70% of pregnant women experience this unpleasant situation. Within the medical community it is common for morning sickness to be referred to as a ‘symptom’ of pregnancy, as if pregnancy were a disease. The medical approach in dealing with this ‘symptom’ seems to be that morning sickness makes women distressed, so let’s alleviate the symptom, usually with drugs, and thereby relieve them of their discomfort.
Before acting from such a limited ‘pain relief’ perspective, maybe we should seek to understand the origin of this bodily response and determine whether it serves a necessary function.
A literature review, published in ‘Obstetrics & Gynecology’ (2000; 95:779-82), lends further support to a theory, initially developed by an Evolutionary Biologist called Margie Profet. Profet’s theory was based on some of the following research findings –
A number of studies have now shown that women with morning sickness are less likely to suffer miscarriages or have premature or low birth weight babies. Also those women who vomit are significantly less likely to miscarry than those who experience nausea alone.
Women with no morning sickness symptoms have higher rates of miscarriage and underweight babies.
Actively metabolising tissues are more vulnerable to toxins than dormant ones.
There is a close correlation between the time when the foetal liver is least able to detoxify many chemical compounds and when a pregnant women experiences morning sickness. (In fact symptoms peak precisely when embryonic organogenesis (organ development) is most susceptible to chemical disruption – between week 6 and week 18 of pregnancy.There is a correlation between toxin concentrations and the tastes and odours that cause pregnant women to be nauseous.
In 7 traditional societies with virtually no morning sickness, animal products are not a dietary staple. Plant based foods (corn in particular) have been found to be the dietary staples in 6 out of 7 of those traditional societies. (Note: Corn kernels have low levels of phytochemicals).
Based on a number of the above findings, Margie Profet asked, “Could it be that morning sickness, is actually an example of the bodies inborn wisdom expressing health exactly as it is designed to?”
Margie Profet has hypothesised that nausea and food aversions during the first trimester of pregnancy serve as important protective mechanisms for the developing foetus. She argued that morning sickness has evolved to impose dietary restrictions on the mother and thereby minimize foetal exposure to toxins while the developing liver is most unable to detoxify certain chemicals found in common foods.
Although the theory has undergone a number of revisions as more data has come to hand, it certainly now seems that morning sickness is important to optimal foetal development and well being.
‘The Quarterly Review of Biology’ (2000; 75:113-48), contains a paper that examines the outcomes of thousands of successful and unsuccessful pregnancies. Their conclusions, which support those of Profet, also claim that morning sickness is important for maternal well being. They state, in relation to the foetus “morning sickness protects against teratogenic (foetal organ-deforming) chemicals,” but then go on to add, “aversion to potentially harmful foods is the body’s way of preserving wellness of the mother at a time when her immune system is naturally suppressed and has reduced defences against food-borne pathogens”.
Two other authors (Nesse & Williams), in reviewing the work of Margie Profet, concluded, “…pregnant women should be extremely wary of ALL DRUGS, both therapeutic and recreational… Certainly, it would be wise to avoid taking any medication.”
Chiropractors focus on removing interference to nerve pathways. This allows the body to best express health, however it deems appropriate, for a particular individual at a particular point in time. No matter how uncomfortable, recurrent bouts of severe nausea during the course of a pregnancy in 70% of women might be exactly what is appropriate for that group.
Chiropractic is about attempting to insure that such important mechanisms are not dampened or masked, but instead that all ‘symptomatic’ expressions of health accurately reflect what our individual inborn adaptive intelligence is trying to do.
Maybe we need to change the name of “Morning Sickness” to “Wellness Insurance.”