Morning sickness can be debilitating and not the most pleasant part of early pregnancy. Find out what triggers morning sickness, common symptoms and the best home remedies, from eating fresh ginger to sniffing lemons.
Firstly it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Around half of all pregnant women experience morning sickness or vomiting, and more than 80 percent of women experience nausea in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
For some, it’s a minor inconvenience that calms down into the second trimester. For others, however, pregnancy sickness is a serious condition that can affect many other areas of their health. In this article, we cover the following questions:
What does morning sickness feel like?
Is it just in the morning?
When does morning sickness start?
What is ‘normal’?
Why does morning sickness happen?
What are morning sickness remedies?
Can it harm the baby?
Is it dangerous to let pregnancy nausea go on untreated?
Should I be given medication?
Can men get morning sickness?
If I have morning sickness once, will I have it again?
What does morning sickness feel like?
If you’re feeling sick, nauseous, fatigued, out of sorts, or you’re actually vomiting – then you have morning sickness. Some women say it can feel similar to a hangover, which is ironic when you’ll be avoiding alcohol in early pregnancy.
In more extreme cases, some sufferers also get ptyalism, where they can’t swallow their own saliva without vomiting. Other symptoms include dark-yellow urine, dry mouth and lips, urinating less than usual and feeling tired, sad or anxious. Severe morning or pregnancy sickness is known as hyperemesis gravidarum.
You may feel hungry, and want to eat little and often. Or just the idea of eating might make you feel sick. However you feel, it’s important to listen to your body, drink plenty of water, and get lots of rest.
Is morning sickness just in the morning?
Pregnant women can suffer from nausea at any time of day, not just in the morning. Some women only experience mild symptoms, where certain foods and smells make them feel queasy, but not physically sick. Other women just can’t stop vomiting throughout the day.
But, it normal to be nauseous all day? Yes, it can be very normal to feel sick throughout the day. In fact, experts believe we should stop using the term morning sickness, as it is so misleading. A study by the University of Warwick suggests that medical professionals use the term NVP or Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy. While vomiting is most common in pregnant women between 7am and 1pm, nausea and sickness typically continue throughout the day.
When does morning sickness start and how long does it last?
Morning sickness usually occurs in the early stages of pregnancy within the first 12 weeks after conception. If you suffer from severe nausea or hyperemesis gravidarum, however, it can last for the length of your pregnancy. Morning sickness usually stops between week 16 and week 20 of your pregnancy. This can vary from women to women, however and some women may experience pregnancy nausea until 40 weeks.
If you had nausea before during a previous pregnancy, chances are you will have it again. Your risk factor for pregnancy nausea might increase if you experienced it with previous children, but it’s not a certain thing. Many women go on to have healthy further pregnancies with minimal sickness, even after suffering the first time round.
What is ‘normal’ pregnancy nausea?
‘Normal’ pregnancy nausea would involve feeling sick, occasionally vomiting and feeling under the weather until your second trimester. It might feel unpleasant, but it should stop you going about your everyday life too much. Every woman is different, however, so there really is no such thing as ‘normal’. So, is nausea a good sign? Yes, many health professionals believe feeling sick in early pregnancy is a good sign. It shows the baby is developing as expected and suggests the correct hormonal changes are taking place. It might not feel this way when you’re gagging at breakfast time. But you can take hope in the knowledge that it shouldn’t last too long.
Why does morning sickness happen?
The exact cause of morning sickness remains unknown. Many doctors believe it may be triggered by rapidly rising levels of hCG, which is the hormone secreted by the foetus during the early stages of pregnancy. Women with only slight nausea tend to have a slower rise of this hormone.
Your risk factor can be affected by a family history. You may be more likely to suffer nausea if:
- It’s your first pregnancy or a multiple pregnancy,
- Close family members have also suffered from nausea and vomiting in pregnancy
- You have a history of motion sickness
- There’s a family history of nausea while using oestrogen-based contraceptives
- You suffer from stress
You may want to pay attention to what you eat, as this can improve or worsen pregnancy nausea. The Body Doula, Emilie Joy Rowell, warns that “it seems to be triggered by smells and can go alongside having aversions to particular foods or starting to have cravings.”
Yes, in some rare cases men develop sympathetic morning sickness as well, or Couvade syndrome. It isn’t officially a medically recognised disorder, but this study from City University London suggests symptoms include abdominal pain and bloating, back pain, morning sickness, and food cravings.
Can morning sickness harm the baby?
There’s no evidence that ‘normal’ pregnancy nausea has a negative impact on your baby in any way. Most mothers with morning sickness have happy, healthy pregnancies. Your baby should still receive the correct amount of nutrients, even if you’re vomiting every day.
In severe cases, the baby of a mother with extreme pregnancy nausea can be born prematurely or with a lower-than-average birth weight. However this is very rare.
Is it dangerous to let pregnancy nausea go on untreated?
Most women do not need medical treatment for morning sickness. You should contact your midwife if you’re suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum or you can’t keep any food or water down. If left untreated, severe pregnancy nausea can cause dehydration and other health complications.
You should contact your GP or midwife if you’re vomiting and:
- have tummy or abdominal pain
- have very dark-coloured urine or have not urinated in more than 8 hours
- are unable to keep food or fluids down for 24 hours
- feel in pain or pass blood when you urinate
- have lost weight
- feel very weak, dizzy or faint when standing up
Because these can be signs of severe dehydration or a urinary infection.
Should I be given medication?
If your nausea or vomiting is extreme your GP may recommend a short-term course of medicine that is safe to use in pregnancy. You can also contact the Pregnancy Sickness Support association who can offer advice on hyperemesis gravidarum.
Some doctors won’t prescribe anti-nausea drugs such as Zofran, as there’s a lack of research into the long-term effects on the baby. If your GP prescribes anti-sickness drugs (eg: Stemetil, Zofran, or Maxallon), they should fully explain the risks involved.
Not keen? You could consider some alternative therapies Aromatherapy can provide some relief, such as this peppermint anti-nausea spritz from My Expert Midwife. Anthonissa Moger, Founder of The Hypnobirthing Midwife and author of Holistic Hypnobirthing, recommends “putting a few drops of peppermint or lemon essential oil on a tissue to sniff as and when needed. “You can also do acupressure on yourself, with no special equipment:
Morning sickness cures:
Unfortunately there’s no complete cure, you can only try to relieve the symptoms. The NHS recommends getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, eating small, regular meals, and wearing comfortable clothes where possible.
The best morning sickness cures may well be in your kitchen cupboard. Everyday ingredients including eating fresh ginger and even sniffing lemons have been credited with relieving pregnancy nausea. Yogabirth teacher and Hypnobirthing Coach Annabel Hargrave recommends “Eat slow burning foods (like oats, wholegrains, pulses) in small quantities. Have a snack by your bed at night, and drink plenty of water – especially hot water with lemon and ginger.
Eating little and often will help maintain your blood sugar levels and can prevent you feeling sick in the first place. If you find you get particularly sick at night, keep a few oatcakes next to your bed to nibble on before you go to sleep. We’d also recommend keeping some of the snacks listed below in your bag during the day, so you always have a snack to hand when the sickness hits. Keep your blood sugars stable by eating little and often and include protein with each meal and snack. Don’t feel guilty if all you can manage to eat is bland, beige food. Your baby will still be getting all that it needs from your nutrient stores.
And don’t forget, morning sickness is a very normal part of pregnancy. Hypnobirthing expert Sophie Kirkham recommends reframing heartburn and nausea as a positive sign that things are progressing well. “Find an acceptance and understanding that as your baby fills up more of your body, your stomach gets squished up out the way (which causes nausea). The hormone relaxin is softening your stomach valve, which allows acid up into your oesophagus and makes things feel difficult. My personal reframe on heartburn is that the relaxin hormone is softening the body, and making it easier to birth our babies.”
Now is the time to relax before the baby arrives. Morning sickness can be very draining and it’s important that you reserve your energy for you and your baby. The Hypnobirthing Midwife, Anthonissa Moger, has this advice: “Don’t push through if you are exhausted. Rest as much as you can and go to bed early.
Simple home remedies for morning sickness
Try these simple home remedies for morning sickness, including eating ice lollies, dry crackers and fresh ginger. Taking B vitamin supplement and even sniffing a lemon is said to help! You may also want to avoid these foods if you’re pregnant.
Many women find that ice lollies and pops can help ease morning sickness, particularly if they are citrus or ginger flavoured.
Soap star Helen Flanagan told fans that a branded pop, known as a Lillipop, had been a godsend when carrying her daughter Matilda.
for me my morning sickness that I had for 3 months is pretty much gone I
only now feel sick if I am hungry,' she explained at the time. 'The Lillipops did help when I was
feeling really nauseous and I found them really helpful when doing jobs
in the kitchen or being around food. My fave is lemon and mint.'
Lillipops' creator, who suffered terrible morning sickness with her third child,
Lilly, started making her own ice pops to battle her nausea.
Ice lollies or pops aren't only great for morning sickness tastewise - when you can't stomach eating or drinking, they will keep you hydrated too.
If the thought of anything with a strong flavour or texture is turning your stomach, dry crackers could be a viable meal option.
GoodtoKnow user Laura said: 'Having some dry crackers and a cup of tea before you get out of bed really helps morning sickness, and GoodtoKnow user Melanie added:
'I felt a lot of nausea - and especially felt ill around fish, but I
was never actually sick. I used to snack little and often on toast, crackers and cheese.'
Ginger is a well-known cure for any kind of sickness, but it can be an especially good morning sickness remedy. The NHS advises, 'There is some evidence that ginger supplements may help reduce nausea and vomiting, and to date, there have not been any reports of adverse effects being caused by taking ginger during pregnancy.'
Not keen on the raw stuff? GoodtoKnow user Emily said: 'I'd heard ginger was good for easing morning sickness but didn't like ginger tea, so I nibbled ginger snap biscuits instead.'
Acupuncture can be very successful in treating morning sickness. It involves a practitioner placing very fine needles lightly into the skin at points which are believed to be lines of energy - one of which is classically associated with vomiting and nausea.
Acupuncture is actually available on the NHS in some areas, so speak to your GP about whether there's an NHS practitioner near you. And the question you're dying to ask; is it painful? No, it shouldn't be. Most people report feeling a dull ache where the needles are positioned but it is mild and not too uncomfortable.
Plain foods tend to be best for morning sickness sufferers, so fill up on fibre-rich wholegrain cereals like bran flakes or All Bran.
GoodtoKnow user Melissa said: 'I was worried that I would suffer from morning sickness, but I ate All Bran first thing every morning to try and avoid it. I didn't suffer too badly, so maybe that worked.'
Being sick frequently can leave you dehydrated, so it's important to keep your liquid levels topped up. Try to drink several litres of water a day to ease symptoms of morning sickness. Juice, squash, tea or coffee may seem too intense, but ice cold water is cool and refreshing enough to sip at with even the worst nausea.
Hypnobirthing expert Sophie Kirkham from Calm Hypnobirthing recommends also drinking "a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in hot water first thing in the morning. It's a good idea to use rehydration salts, like ‘Dioralyte’ or ‘Sweat Salts’, too."
GoodtoKnow user Sian said: 'Drinking ice cold water really helps, especially after meals. And it definitely woke me up in the mornings!'
Plenty of rest is advisable throughout your pregnancy, and you can definitely extend that advise to eating times!
GoodtoKnow user Inga said: 'I had bad morning sickness - my advice is to drink a lot of water and eat as soon as you get up - even before you get out of bed. Get your partner to bring you the food in bed!'
Acupressure points on the wrists can really help to relieve nausea, in all instances, not just morning sickness.
find your pressure point lay your fingers 2 or 3 finger widths down
past the crease in your wrist, the pressure point lies there inbetween
the two large tendons which run up through your arm.
feeling sick, use your thumb and index finger to apply pressure at that
point to both sides of your wrist. Hold for 20-30 seconds and you should
start to feel some relief.
Try our homemade lemonade recipe made with still water to settle your stomach.
GoodtoKnow user Angela said: 'Throughout my first trimester, I was being sick 6 or 7 times a day. I was about to be put on a drip when I discovered that drinking flat lemonade helped me keep down fluids and gave me some energy. It also made it easier to eat food without bringing it back up again.'
Vitamins B6 and B12 can help, but you'll need to take the supplements from the start of your pregnancy for them to be effective.
In addition, the tablets may only be helpful for nausea rather than physical sickness - as WebMD details, 'Studies suggest that taking vitamin B6 for morning sickness greatly improves nausea, though not vomiting, for many pregnant women. A typical dose of vitamin B6 for morning sickness is 10 mg to 25 mg, 3 times a day.'
Similarly to breaking down meals into smaller portions, having snacks at regular intervals can keep nausea at bay, particularly if you chose plain snacks that aren't too unhealthy, such as pretzels or popcorn.
GoodtoKnow user Katy said: 'Grazing through the day and making sure I'm not eating too much rubbish helped me.'
As important is it is to keep drinking water, it's equally important to avoid drinks that dehydrate you, like coffee and cola.
Alcohol is also a dehydrating drink, but as it's not advisable to drink during pregnancy, this should already be off your menu!
GoodtoKnow user Katy said: 'Drinking homemade ginger and lemon tea eased my morning sickness.'
Ginger is a well-acknowledged nausea cure, and many women recommend it to others looking for effective morning sickness remedies. Ginger tea also improves digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties, so continuing the drink it during your pregnancy couldn't hurt...
GoodtoKnow user Allie said: 'It sounds daft but I found sniffing a fresh lemon really helped with my morning sickness. I carried one round for months when I was pregnant.'
Citrus has come up many times during our search for effective morning sickness cures, and with good reason! You may also find it helpful to burn a lemon or orange scented candle.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is a particularly acute form of nausea in pregnancy, in which a woman experiences constant and extreme sickness. Severe cases can lead to the mum-to-be having to be hospitalised, as was the case with the Duchess of Cambridge, who needed medical attention during her pregnancies with both Prince George and Prince Charlotte.
If you're finding you can't keep any food or water down, consult your doctor or midwife straight away, as the condition can cause dehydration and lower-than-average birth weight if left untreated.
GoodtoKnow user Angela said: 'I had a very difficult pregnancy and my advice to anyone having trouble is: don't be a martyr. Get yourself signed off sick if you need to, and speak to all the midwives and doctors you can - they'll really help.'