About morning sickness
Morning sickness is the nausea, dry-retching and vomiting that women experience during pregnancy. It’s sometimes referred to as nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP).
Morning sickness is usually at its worst early in the day, but it can happen at any time of the day or night.
Morning sickness is more common in the first trimester of pregnancy, often starting at 6-8 weeks. For many women, it stops after the first 12 weeks. For some women, it goes on for longer than this.
Morning sickness is common. About two-thirds of pregnant women experience it.
Morning sickness doesn’t mean there are problems with your pregnancy. And it’s usually not harmful for you or your baby.
Symptoms of morning sickness
Symptoms of morning sickness include nausea, dry-retching and vomiting.
Morning sickness symptoms vary among pregnant women. They can also vary from pregnancy to pregnancy.
Symptoms might range from mild to severe, and they might happen constantly, often or only sometimes.
Some people might experience morning sickness every day. Others will experience it less often.
When to seek help from a health professional for morning sickness
If you’re experiencing morning sickness symptoms, talk to your GP, obstetrician or midwife at your regular appointments during pregnancy. If your next appointment isn’t for a while, you might like to see your GP or contact your midwife.
You should see your GP or midwife as soon as possible if you’re vomiting and you:
- can’t keep down food and fluids
- have signs of dehydration – less frequent urination, sunken eyes, dry tongue and mouth, loss of weight, tiredness and lethargy
- are worried about your symptoms.
Your GP, obstetrician or midwife will rule out other causes for your nausea or vomiting. They will also check that you and your baby are well and that you’re getting enough nutrients and staying hydrated. Your GP, obstetrician or midwife can help you to manage your symptoms.
Morning sickness can contribute to stress, anxiety and depression. If you’re experiencing stress or signs of antenatal anxiety or depression, see your GP or another health professional as soon as possible. Signs include negative emotional changes that last longer than 2 weeks or symptoms like a racing heart, constant worry and restlessness.
Managing morning sickness
You can usually manage morning sickness symptoms at home. Managing your symptoms can help you feel better, sleep better and have more energy during your pregnancy.
Here are suggestions to help you manage morning sickness symptoms.
Food and fluids
Work out what foods you can eat without feeling sick, and try to eat small amounts of these foods often. This will help you and your baby get the nutrition you need. Carbohydrate-rich snacks like crackers, toast, cereal or fruit are ideal.
It’s also very important to avoid dehydration. Try to drink small amounts often. Plain and flavoured water are good options, as are ice chips or ice blocks.
You might feel a bit more tired while you’re pregnant. If fatigue is making your nausea and vomiting worse, try to organise your work, exercise, household chores and social commitments so you can get plenty of rest. For example, you might be able to cut back on your commitments until morning sickness symptoms ease in later pregnancy.
Over-the-counter treatments and prescription medicines
There are over-the-counter medicines and supplements that might help with morning sickness symptoms. These include antihistamines, ginger and vitamin B6.
Before you take any over-the counter medicines or supplements, it’s essential to talk with your GP or pharmacist. They can check that the medicines or supplements are safe for pregnancy.
If your nausea and vomiting are severe, your doctor might prescribe medicines like anti-nausea drugs. The dose, timing and medicine will depend on your symptoms.
Acupressure on the P6 point on the wrist might help ease nausea. You might be able to locate this point yourself, or you could visit a practitioner to help you.
Before trying an alternative therapy, check with your midwife, GP or obstetrician that it’s safe for pregnancy.
If your morning sickness is severe, you might need to tell people that you’re pregnant earlier than you’d planned. This way your family and friends can support you while you’re unwell. For example, they might be able to do things like buying or preparing food, helping with chores around the house or caring for children. This can give you a chance to rest and look after yourself.
About 2-3 in every 100 pregnant women experience extreme nausea and vomiting that doesn’t have another cause. This is different from regular morning sickness and is known as hyperemesis gravidarum.
Hyperemesis gravidarum begins in early pregnancy, like morning sickness, but it might last for the whole pregnancy.
If you have hyperemesis gravidarum, you might be at risk of weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. You’ll probably need to be admitted to hospital for intravenous fluids, assessment and support.
Hyperemesis gravidarum can be very difficult for you and your family. If you have hyperemesis gravidarum, it’s important to watch out for signs of antenatal and postnatal anxiety and depression and get support as soon as possible.
Causes of morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum
Doctors don’t fully understand why morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum happen. The causes might include increasing levels of hormones related to pregnancy like hCG, genetics and lifestyle.
You’re more likely to have morning sickness if you’re pregnant with more than one baby. Morning sickness can also be the result of other very rare complications, which mean the pregnancy doesn’t develop as expected.
If you’re worried about your morning sickness, talk to your GP, obstetrician or midwife.