Morning sickness in pregnancy is incredibly common. In fact, pregnant people report experiencing morning sickness in up to 80% of pregnancies.
Although the exact cause of morning sickness is unknown, it is believed to be linked to the drastic hormonal changes that take place in the first trimester of pregnancy. Nausea (that can sometimes result in vomiting) occurs in brief periods throughout the day—not just limited to mornings like the name implies.
There is no “cure” for morning sickness, but we’ve put together a guide to understanding more about the symptoms, including what’s “normal” and how to manage your nausea in order to keep up with your day-to-day.
When does morning sickness occur?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (also known as “NVP” but more commonly referred to as “morning sickness”) usually begins before your ninth week of pregnancy. Generally, it will start around week six with symptoms peaking around nine weeks.
When does morning sickness end?
Though there are some exceptions, most people will see their symptoms cease by 14 weeks of pregnancy. Dr. Ranae Yockey, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist who acts as program director of the midwifery services at Northwest Community Hospital, said in an email that 90% of the time, symptoms will resolve by 22 weeks.
What are the symptoms of morning sickness?
You’ll know you have morning sickness if you experience the following within your first trimester of pregnancy:
- Food aversions that limit what you can eat
- Food aversions or smells resulting in nausea and vomiting
When are my symptoms considered abnormal?
Although you should always consult with your doctor if you have concerns about your pregnancy, there are some factors which are likely to cause more intense morning sickness, such as having a family history of heightened symptoms, carrying multiples or having a medical history that includes motion sickness and migraines.
If symptoms are severe enough, however, you could be developing hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). You may have heard of this when Duchess Kate was going through it in each of her pregnancies.
Although HG is rare (affecting 1% of pregnant people), severe nausea and vomiting throughout pregnancy can lead to too much weight loss (>5% of body weight), dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Dr. Yockey explains that hyperemesis gravidarum can have effects beyond the physical. “Thirty-five percent of patients require time off of work, 50% say that their family and partner relationships are affected, 55% say they’re depressed … and 7% have long-term psychiatric dysfunction or PTSD from severe hyperemesis gravidarum,” she wrote. “I do have several patients over the years that have needed multiple hospitalizations and home health with IV therapy that continued throughout their whole pregnancy. … I have also had several patients over the years who have terminated pregnancies because of the severe effect of nausea and vomiting, loss of work, and stress on their marriage.”
If you’re nauseous enough that you’re vomiting throughout the day, can’t keep down liquids, feel dizzy, or begin to vomit blood, you should alert your physician and head to the emergency room. “Early diagnosis and treatment may decrease the progression to hyperemesis gravidarum,” Dr. Yockey notes.
How is morning sickness treated?
NVP can be hard for pregnant parents to deal with, diminishing their emotional, psychological and physiological health. Although there is no cure for morning sickness, generations of pregnant people have found some ways to help mitigate the nausea that can occur.
- Take anti-nausea meds. Dr. Yockey emphasizes that even when symptoms are severe, there are anti-nausea medications like Zofran that your doctor can prescribe to help with nausea.
- Try vitamin B6, which decreases the risk of hyperemesis, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, says Dr. Yockey. Often, you can find prenatal vitamins with B6, but if you still experience symptoms, a separate B6 supplement may be warranted. Talk to your doctor about dosage.
- Stock up on ginger chews and cook more with ginger, which has historically helped with nausea in traditional medicine.
- Try acupuncture or acupressure, which studies show may help ease nausea and vomiting.
- Keep up with eating small meals or snacks. Dr. Yockey also shares that eating small, frequent, and bland meals every 1 to 2 hours will help when you’re feeling nauseous since nausea is often worse when your stomach is completely full or empty.
- Avoiding strong odors, spicy or sugary foods may help to reduce possible triggers.
- Staying well-rested and hydrated may also help stave off nausea as dehydration and fatigue can trigger symptoms.