Morning sickness protects the baby, researcher says

May 05, 1992|By Sylvia Rubin | Sylvia Rubin,San Francisco Chronicle

The doctor has confirmed the good news. She's pregnant.

Now get that cup of coffee out of her sight before it makes her throw up.

Wipe the planet clean of fish, fried foods, garlic and even mustard, at least for the first three months, when morning sickness is at its peak.

The typical pregnant woman develops some nausea and food aversions during the first trimester, some before even realizing she is pregnant.

If biochemist Margie Profet stopped 10 women in the street in their first trimester and held up to their noses vials of fresh-brewed Kona coffee or mesquite-grilled steak, almost all would turn away in disgust, she says.

Morning sickness, that unmistakable first sign of pregnancy,has never been fully explained, says Ms. Profet, a research associate at the University of California at Berkeley. She has published a new theory about morning sickness, saying it exists to stop women from eating foods that could deform their fetuses.

"It isn't a fluke," she says. "It's an adaptation."

The hormones produced through early pregnancy cause the part of the brain that triggers nausea, vomiting and food aversions to become acutely sensitive, Ms. Profet says.

She believes the smells given off by the toxins with which vegetables fight off herbivores and those bacteria produced in rotting meat are the ones that are most likely to make pregnant women queasy.

So the coffee that smelled so good when you weren't with child now smells like a toxic waste dump.

"Virtually every woman in early pregnancy has to alter her diet in order not to be sick," Ms. Profet says.

The top 10 food offenders, according to Ms. Profet:

Coffee, onions and garlic, herbs and spices, brussels sprouts (no big surprise there), barbecued foods, fried foods, fish, chili peppers, mustard and canned fish or meats. Fresh fish, if it is very fresh, should not offend a pregnant woman's acute sense of smell, Ms. Profet says, but most everything else will.

"I remember feeling sick if my husband just opened the refrigeratordoor," says Tiffany Kane, 23, of Southern California, who was at UC Medical Center with her daughter for a doctor's appointment. "All I really felt like eating were turkey sandwiches and yogurt."

Food aversions peak between three and eight weeks of pregnancy, Ms. Profet says, exactly when the embryo is developing its vital organs and is most susceptible to deformities by toxins and certain chemicals.

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