Morning Sickness During Pregnancy: What To Do And How To Cope
Start with home strategies like eating bland meals and ginger, and escalate to medication if necessary.
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This guide was originally published on May 14, 2019 in NYT Parenting.
The term morning sickness is an unfortunate misnomer. The awful nausea and vomiting that many pregnant women experience can strike any time of the day morning, afternoon or night. It can make you miserable and, if severe enough, can seriously interrupt your daily life.
The good news: experts say there are practical steps you can take to help find relief, from home treatments to prescription medications. While it may be difficult to get rid of all symptoms, this is a treatable condition and we can break the cycle and get people feeling better, said Dr. Sumona Saha, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
For this guide, I spoke with Dr. Saha as well as two obstetrician-gynecologists, and read scientific studies to discover the best strategies for treating nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
When Does Morning Sickness End
Morning nausea usually peaks between weeks 8-11, and typically fades by the end of the first trimester. However, some women can experience nausea in their second trimester, and some even notice nausea near the end of pregnancy.
If your morning sickness lasts beyond your first trimester, you may be more sensitive to the effects of hormonal changes during pregnancy. Or you may just have a more delicate stomach. But its a good idea to bring up your morning sickness with your doctor or midwife to learn about your options for relief.
Tips To Manage Nausea And Vomiting
- Get as much rest as you can being tired can make nausea worse.
- Rinsing your mouth with water or mouthwash can help control unpleasant mouth taste that can make nausea worse.
- Ice chips and popsicles can help reduce the metallic taste in your mouth.
- Grated fresh ginger, ginger syrup or crystallized ginger added into hot water may help reduce your nausea.
- Talk to your doctor about taking just folic acid instead of your prenatal vitamin while you are feeling nauseated. Once you are feeling better, you can go back to taking your prenatal multivitamin.
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How Long Does Morning Sickness Last
Most women get relief from morning sickness by the second trimester, between 14 and 20 weeks. But some women with morning sickness continue to have symptoms beyond that, and a few women will experience it throughout their entire pregnancy.
If your morning sickness lasts beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy, occurs for the first time after 9 weeks of pregnancy, or lessens and then returns, play it safe and let your healthcare provider know. Persistent nausea and vomiting can sometimes indicate another medical problem or just make you miserable so it’s important to be seen and possibly treated.
BabyCenter’s editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you’re seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.
ACOG. 2021. Morning sickness: Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Morning sickness . Cleveland Clinic
When Will You Experience Pregnancy Symptoms
One factor to consider is the fact that many of the earliest signs of pregnancy are the same symptoms you might have right before your period.
With that in mind, you probably won’t experience significant symptoms before your missed period. Most classic pregnancy symptoms dont start until one or two weeks after conception at the very earliest. Many women dont notice anything until one or two weeks after their missed period .
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Make Sure You Have Emotional Support
Many people fail to appreciate how awful and debilitating morning sickness can be. Morning sickness has the connotation that Oh, this is a normal part of pregnancy, and people dont think of it as being pathology related to pregnancy, said Dr. Saha. A lot of women get undertreated or they dont even seek medical advice for their condition. That is a major problem. Make sure your family, your partner and your doctor give you with the emotional support you need, and let your provider know if you are struggling.
What Can I Do To Feel Better If I Have Morning Sickness
There are a few things you can do to feel better. These include:
- Eat a few crackers or toast in the morning to help settle your stomach. Keep a few crackers at bedside and eat a couple before getting up.
- Eat five or six small meals a day instead of three large meals.
- Avoid spicy and fatty foods. Eat bland foods such as bananas, rice, dry toast, plain baked potato, gelatin, broth, eggs, tofu or applesauce.
- Eat healthy snacks between meals, such as yogurt, peanut butter on apple slices or celery, cheese, milk or nuts.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, throughout the day.
- Take your prenatal vitamins with a snack. If your prenatal vitamin contains iron, try taking it at bedtime. Talk with your doctor about other vitamin options.
- Avoid odors, flickering lights, other situations that bother you and trigger your nausea.
- Make tea with real grated ginger or try ginger candies.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Keep rooms well-ventilated, turn on a fan, or go outside from time to time to get some fresh air.
- Smell fresh-smelling, pleasant scents such as lemon, orange or mint.
Other methods may help reduce nausea. Talk with your healthcare provider before trying these:
- Acupressure wristband. These bands apply pressure to certain points on your wrist.
- Acupuncture. In this treatment method, thin needles are put into your skin.
Do not use marijuana to treat morning sickness! It has not been shown to be safe for the fetus during pregnancy.
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When To See A Doctor
Severe morning sickness can become more difficult to control as a pregnancy progresses. As such, it is important to talk to a doctor about morning sickness early in the pregnancy, particularly if it is having a significant effect on daily life.
If the remedies that a doctor prescribes do not work, a person should follow up and ask for other options. They should go to the emergency department if:
- their vomiting is severe, and they cannot keep fluids down
- they are showing signs of dehydration
- they develop nausea or vomiting after an injury or accident
When To Call Your Healthcare Provider
Youâre unable to urinate, or urinate a very small amount, or urinate fewer than three times per day
Your urine is dark in color or has a strong odor
You canât keep any foods or liquids down for 24 hours or more
Youâve stopped gaining weight or have lost five pounds or more within one to two weeks
Your skin, mouth, and lips are very dry
You get dizzy when you stand up
You get tired and confused easily
Your heart is racing or pounding.
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Ask Your Doctor About Morning Sickness Medication
If your morning sickness is severe, you may want to talk to your doctor about taking a prescription drug that’s been approved by the FDA to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Both Diclegis or Bonjesta have been proven safe and effective. Your doctor may sometimes prescribe an anti-nausea medication .
Whats Severe Morning Sickness
Severe morning sickness is when nausea and vomiting get so serious that a pregnant woman vomits several times a day, loses weight, and gets dehydrated or is at risk for dehydration.
If this rare pregnancy-related condition isnt treated, it can affect a woman’s health and her baby’s ability to thrive.
The medical term for severe morning sickness is “hyperemesis gravidarum” , which means “excessive vomiting during pregnancy.” It usually follows a similar timeline to normal morning sickness. But it can go longer, sometimes lasting for the whole pregnancy. Often, the symptoms get less severe as the pregnancy continues.
Most cases of hyperemesis gravidarum affect a woman’s first pregnancy. But women who have it in one pregnancy are more likely to have it in future pregnancies.
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Keep Your Mouth Squeaky Clean
Regular brushing helps keep your mouth fresh and reduces queasiness in the future. It also decreases the risk of damage to teeth from vomiting.
Brush your teeth or rinse your mouth after each meal and after bouts of vomiting once your tummy has settled a bit. If your usual toothpaste contributes to nausea , ask your dentist to recommend another option or a good rinse. Or use plain water.
Is Morning Sickness A Good Sign
Many women consider morning sickness to be a good sign, despite the unpleasant queasiness and vomiting. It can be a reminder that they are actually pregnant and that their pregnancy is on track. And there is some research that supports this point of view.
Be sure to reach out to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about morning sickness or about any aspect of your pregnancy.
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What Are Common Symptoms Of Pregnancy
Everyone experiences different symptoms of pregnancy and at different times. Its important not to compare your pregnancy to someone elses because pregnancy symptoms can vary so dramatically.
There are several signs of early pregnancy that you may or may not have. The most common symptoms include:
When Does Morning Sickness Peak
It varies from woman to woman, but symptoms tend to be the worst at around 9 or 10 weeks, when levels of hCG are at their highest. At 11 weeks, hCG levels start to fall, and by 15 weeks they’ve dropped about 50 percent from their peak.
Scientists believe that morning sickness may be the body’s way of protecting your baby in early pregnancy from toxins and potentially dangerous foods. This theory makes sense because the first trimester when most women have the strongest morning sickness is the crucial period of development when all of your baby’s organs and physical structures form.
Frequently Asked Questionsexpand All
Any of the following can increase the risk of severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy:
Being pregnant with more than one fetus
A previous pregnancy with either mild or severe nausea and vomiting
Your mother or sister had severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy
A history of motion sickness or migraines
Being pregnant with a female fetus
Yes, some medical conditions can cause nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. These conditions include:
Thyroid or gallbladder disease
Your ob-gyn or other obstetric care provider might suspect that you have one of these conditions if you have signs or symptoms that usually do not occur with nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Some of these signs and symptoms include:
Nausea and vomiting that occurs for the first time after 9 weeks of pregnancy
Abdominal pain or tenderness
Enlarged thyroid gland
This condition usually does not harm your health or your fetuss health. It also does not mean that your fetus is sick.
Nausea and vomiting can become more of a problem if you cannot keep down food or fluids and begin to lose weight. When this happens, it sometimes can affect the fetuss weight at birth.
Changing the types of foods you eat
When Should I Call My Doctor About A New Pregnancy
If youve missed your period and gotten a positive pregnancy test, your next step will be to call your healthcare provider for your first appointment. While scheduling, your provider may ask if you have already started taking a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid. Prenatal vitamins are important in early pregnancy because they help in the development of the fetal neural tube. The neural tube will become your babys brain and spine. Many healthcare providers recommend that anyone who could become pregnant take folic acid at all times.
If youre planning a pregnancy, a preconception appointment with your healthcare provider is a good place to start. A preconception appointment is especially important if you take medication for a chronic illness or have other medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or lupus.
During this appointment, your provider will discuss any current medical conditions, as well as your general health before pregnancy. This appointment is meant to get you into the best place for a new pregnancy.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
- American Pregnancy Association. Early Signs of Pregnancy. Accessed 7/26/2022.
- Merck Manual Consumer Version. Physical Changes During Pregnancy. Accessed 7/26/2022.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Morning Sickness: Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy. Accessed 7/26/2022.
- U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Womens Health. Prenatal Care. Accessed 7/26/2022.
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Can You Be Pregnant And Not Have Morning Sickness
Morning sickness is made out to be very common in movies and television, and it is. But its also possible to be pregnant without experiencing it. Three out of 10 pregnant women dont experience morning sickness, so its not rare or concerning if thats the case.
The same goes for aversions to certain foods or smells. Every pregnancy is unique, so not every pregnant woman will experience the same symptoms. If you think you could be pregnant but arent experiencing morning sickness or other symptoms, taking a pregnancy test is the only way to find out for sure.
Learn When Morning Sickness Starts And How You Can Find Relief From Pregnancy
Youre pregnant and ecstatic. You want to go out to lunch to share your excitement with a friend or get a jump on baby shopping. But instead of throwing yourself into the joy of it all, youre trying not to move so you dont throw up again.
If youre feeling sick during your pregnancy, youre not alone. Morning sickness is very common. Up to 50% of pregnant people will have nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, and up to 80% will have at least some nausea.
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When Does Morning Sickness Start
While the morning sickness timeline isn’t set in stone, most pregnant people start to feel queasy halfway through the first trimester, between weeks six and eight (though it may also start earlier. “Generally, it’s not going to start after week 14,” says Michele Hakakha, M.D., FACOG, an OB-GYN in Beverly Hills and author of Expecting 411. The exception: Late in pregnancy, your baby may push on your stomach and intestines, causing nausea. Many of the same strategies you use for standard morning sickness can also help with this late-pregnancy nausea.
Scientists still don’t fully understand what causes morning sickness or why some pregnant people will only feel a bit queasy while others will vomit. The leading theory is that the pregnancy hormone hCG, as well as estrogen, begin to rise in the body and trigger a cascade of responses, including nausea and vomiting. Some researchers think that morning sickness may be the body’s way of protecting a growing fetus by purging the body of anything potentially toxic. This may explain certain food aversions or sensitivities to smells that previously didn’t bother you.
In one study, researchers found that people with morning sickness symptoms were less likely to have a miscarriage. But that is not to say that if you don’t have morning sickness, you should be concerned. Lots of expecting parents will skip the dreaded morning sickness phase and go on to deliver healthy babies.
Things You Can Try Yourself
If your morning sickness is not too bad, your GP or midwife will initially recommend you try some lifestyle changes:
- get plenty of rest
- avoid foods or smells that make you feel sick
- eat something like dry toast or a plain biscuit before you get out of bed
- eat small, frequent meals of plain foods that are high in carbohydrate and low in fat
- eat cold foods rather than hot ones if the smell of hot meals makes you feel sick
- drink plenty of fluids, such as water
- eat foods or drinks containing ginger there’s some evidence ginger may help reduce nausea and vomiting
- try acupressure there’s some evidence that putting pressure on your wrist, using a special band or bracelet on your forearm, may help relieve the symptoms
My Stomach Feels Weirddoes Your Stomach Hurt In Early Pregnancy
It depends on what you mean by hurt.
In general, the kinds of pain youll experience in your belly or lower abdomen in early pregnancy are related to:
- Nausea usually happens between two and eight weeks after conception2
- Cramping these can feel similar to pre-menstrual cramps and can be a sign of implantation2
- Bloating and abdominal discomfort similar to PMS symptoms
Below I talk a little more about nausea, which is common in early pregnancy .
So in the sense of feeling nauseous, yes, your stomach can hurt. Some women also feel some light cramping at the very beginning of their pregnancy, which may or may not be accompanied by spotting . This usually occurs around the predicted time of the period or a couple of days before.