Morning sickness affects about three quarters of pregnant women during the first trimester. About one quarter of all pregnant women has nausea alone, half suffer from both nausea and vomiting, and one lucky quarter has no symptoms whatsoever. The nausea usually starts around 6 weeks of pregnancy, but it can begin as early as 4 weeks. It tends to get worse over the next month or so.
“Morning sickness” is not an exact definition. For some women, the symptoms are worst in the morning and ease up over the course of the day, but for others, it’s morning sickness, noon sickness and evening sickness, that mostly last all day long. The intensity of the symptoms varies from woman to woman, as well.
For half of the women, nausea passes away completely by about 14 weeks of pregnancy. For the rest, it mostly takes another month or so. However, nausea may return later and come and go throughout pregnancy, and a small percentage of women suffer from nausea until delivery.
No one knows for sure what physical changes cause nausea during pregnancy, but some possible causes include:
Estrogen, which rises rapidly during early pregnancy.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which also rises rapidly in early pregnancy. Conditions in which women have higher levels of hCG, such as carrying multiples, are associated with higher rates of nausea and vomiting. Other hormones might cause nausea as well. Some women’s simply have a more sensitive stomach.
An enhanced sense of smell and sensitivity to odors. For some women, it may be cigarettes, for others, certain foods or even perfumes.
You’re more likely to have nausea or vomiting during your pregnancy if any of the following apply:
You had nausea and vomiting in a previous pregnancy.
You have a genetic predisposition to nausea during pregnancy. If your mother or sisters had severe morning sickness, there’s a higher chance you will, too.
You’re pregnant with twins or higher multiples. This may be from the higher levels of hCG, estrogen, or other hormones in your system. You’re also more likely to have a more severe case than average. On the other hand, it’s not a definite thing – some women carrying twins have little or no nausea.
You have a history of nausea or vomiting as a side effect of taking birth control pills. This is probably related to your body’s response to estrogen.
You have a history of motion sickness.
To help your body cope, try to avoid foods and smells that trigger your nausea. It’s okay to eat the few things that do appeal to you for this part of your pregnancy, even if they don’t add up to a perfectly balanced diet.
Avoid spicy, rich, acidic, fatty and fried foods which can irritate your digestive system and your sense of smell.
Eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day so your stomach is never empty. Keep simple snacks, such as crackers, by your bed. When you first wake up, nibble a few crackers and then rest for 20 to 30 minutes before getting up. Snacking on crackers may also help you feel better if you wake up nauseated in the middle of the night.
Try drinking fluids mostly between meals. Aim to drink about a quart and a half altogether. If you’ve been vomiting a lot, try a sports drink that contains glucose, salt, and potassium to replace lost electrolytes.
Nausea can become worse if you’re tired, so give yourself time to relax and take naps if you can.
Some women find that ginger helps quell queasiness. For example, grate some fresh ginger into hot water to make ginger tea or take powdered ginger root in capsules. Since there’s no way to be sure how much of the active ingredient you’re getting in ginger supplements, talk to your provider before taking them.
Taking vitamin B6 works for some women, and it’s safe when taken in commonly recommended doses. The usual dose is 10-25 milligrams three times a day, but check with your provider before taking it. Some nausea remedies are combine vitamins, ginger, and other helpful ingredients.
If nothing else helps, talk with your provider about options for medication.
Call your provider in the next cases:
If you haven’t been able to keep your food and drink down for 24 hours – or if your urine is dark and strong smelling and you’re peeing less than every 4-6 hours.
If you vomit blood, have a fever or abdominal pain, or if you feel extremely weak or faint. If you’re newly pregnant and still don’t have a doctor or midwife, go to the emergency room.
About 1 percent of pregnant women suffer from a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum — literally, “excessive vomiting in pregnancy.” If inadequately treated, hyperemesis gravidarum can result in chronic dehydration, weight loss, malnutrition, and other complications for you and your baby. The sooner you’re diagnosed and treated, the more likely you’ll be able to avoid severe symptoms.
Morning sickness is far from pleasant. You can’t eat or drink properly, and that’s not all. Your food taste may change drastically, sometimes leaving you with an extremely narrow choice of foods whose taste or smell don’t cause nausea. Just when you want to enjoy your pregnancy experience, all you can think about is how to keep down the last meal.
Mild to moderate nausea and occasional vomiting commonly won’t threaten your baby. If you don’t gain any weight in the first trimester, it’s generally not a problem as long as you’re able to drink enough fluids and aren’t starving yourself. In most cases, your appetite will return soon enough and you’ll start gaining weight. If nausea keeps you from eating a balanced diet, make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need by taking a prenatal vitamin.