Morning Sickness in Pregnancy

You’ve probably heard of morning sickness already. Nausea and vomiting are common during early pregnancy – so common that an unexpected bout of vomiting is often used in films and TV shows as the first indication that a character may be pregnant. Still, the reality might take you by surprise. That queasy feeling! Everything seems to bring on nausea – certain smells, the sight of your breakfast, even the thought of food.

If this sounds familiar, you may be asking yourself how long this feeling will last, how severe it can get, and what treatments or remedies could bring relief. Read on to find out.

What Is Morning Sickness?

Nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting, is a common symptom of early pregnancy. It affects around 8 out of 10 mums-to-be in the first trimester.

Despite being called ‘morning sickness’, the symptoms can strike any time of the day or at night, and some mums-to-be feel sick all through the day.

Although nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can be unpleasant, it’s usually nothing to worry about and generally only lasts until around the start of the second trimester.

In fact, it may help to think of it as a reassuring sign that your pregnancy is progressing normally.

What Causes Morning Sickness?

It’s thought that nausea and vomiting of morning sickness are your body’s response to hormonal changes that occur during early pregnancy, especially the higher levels of oestrogen and the pregnancy hormone hCG.

Pregnancy is the only time your body produces hCG, so it’s no coincidence that this hormone is also what home pregnancy tests detect in your urine to determine whether you’re pregnant.

Although hormonal changes are believed to be the main cause, there may be other factors that increase your chance of experiencing this early symptom of pregnancy.

You may be more likely to get morning sickness if you

  • are pregnant with twins or triplets

  • are pregnant for the first time

  • suffered severe nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy

  • often get motion sickness

  • have had migraines in the past

  • felt sick when taking oral contraceptives containing oestrogen

  • are very overweight (with a BMI of over 30)

  • are under stress

  • if morning sickness runs in your family

Remedies to Help You Cope With Morning Sickness

There’s no surefire treatment for morning sickness, so you may have to try several of the different dietary and lifestyle changes below to see if any of them bring relief. If none of these seem to help and you’re finding it hard to cope with the nausea, ask your midwife or doctor for advice.

The good news is that your morning sickness will usually clear up by itself by the time you’re about 16 weeks to 20 weeks pregnant.

Until then, try some of these morning sickness remedies:

  • Get plenty of rest – tiredness can make your nausea worse

  • Steer clear of smells and foods that trigger your nausea

  • Eat something dry and plain (such as a slice of unbuttered toast, or a biscuit) before getting out of bed

  • Drink enough fluids to stay hydrated (taking lots of little sips may help if drinking makes you feel sick)

  • If hot meals make you feel sick, try switching to cold food

  • Eat frequent but smaller meals of bland foods that are high in carbs and low in fat (for example, bread, pasta or rice)

  • Ginger may be a natural remedy for nausea and vomiting, so food and drinks that contains this spicy root, like ginger biscuits and ginger ale might help settle your stomach (but don’t take ginger supplements during pregnancy without first asking your doctor or pharmacist)

  • Avoid coffee and alcohol.

When to See the Doctor

Morning sickness is usually harmless to you and your baby, but there are still some cases when you may need to check in with your doctor or midwife. Read on!

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

In rarer cases, vomiting and nausea during pregnancy can be very severe – this condition is known as hyperemesis gravidarum.

Tell your doctor or midwife straight away if you are vomiting frequently and having trouble keeping any food or drink down.

Your doctor may prescribe treatments for severe morning sickness, such as anti-sickness medicines, vitamin supplements or steroids to relieve the nausea.

If these don’t work, you might also need to spend some time being observed in hospital to assess how best to protect your and your little one’s health.

When It’s Not Just Morning Sickness

Although morning sickness is often the most common cause of feeling and being sick during the first stage of your pregnancy, it’s not the only possible reason.

For example, urinary tract infections (UTIs) can also cause vomiting and nausea, and you may be more prone to this kind of infection when you’re pregnant.

To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to read up on the pregnancy warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored and to call your doctor immediately if you’re vomiting and have any of the following symptoms, which could point toward a UTI or dehydration:

  • Dark-coloured urine

  • Not peeing for eight hours or more

  • Weakness, dizziness or faintness when standing up

  • Abdominal (tummy) pain

  • Pain when peeing or blood in urine

  • Rapid weight loss.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • For most mums-to-be who get morning sickness, the symptoms start at around 4 to 6 weeks pregnant. The nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness will usually be gone by 16 to 20 weeks.

  • Morning sickness is believed to be caused by hormonal changes that occur when you’re pregnant, especially a rise in the levels of oestrogen and the pregnancy hormone hCG.

  • These morning sickness remedies may bring some relief:

    • Rest
    • Steer clear of smells and foods that trigger your nausea
    • Eat a slice of dry toast or a biscuit before getting out of bed
    • Stay hydrated
    • Eat cold foods if hot meals make you feel sick
    • Eat frequent but smaller meals of bland, high-carb and low-fat foods
    • Food and drinks that contain ginger might help settle your stomach.

If you’re starting to experience the nausea or vomiting of morning sickness during the first trimester of your pregnancy, hang in there! Morning sickness usually fades away around the second trimester, which is also when many mums-to-be receive a welcome energy boost.

In the meantime, get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and remind yourself that the nausea is normal and won’t last forever.

Before you know it, the morning sickness will have faded into memory and you’ll be focused on the many other aspects of your journey to parenthood – some magical, others perhaps less so – but all of them worth it in the end.

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below.
The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.