Morning sickness: the causes, symptoms, and best home remedies

How to ease morning sickness with simple home remedies
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  • 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.

    Woman with morning sickness

    Credit: Getty

    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.

    Pregnant Woman Lying On Bed - Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy

    Credit: Getty

    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.