During pregnancy, your body goes through many physical and emotional changes.
As a result, it’s not unusual to experience some of those often talked about pregnancy symptoms, perhaps the most well-known of which, is morning sickness.
Morning sickness and pregnancy nausea are very common, affecting as many as 8 out of 10 pregnancies. So, if this is something you’re going through, you can be sure you’re not alone.
From when does morning sickness start and how long it lasts, to how to manage the symptoms and morning sickness remedies, we’re here to answer your questions and provide support.
Let’s take a look.
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Morning sickness symptoms
For some women, feeling nauseous or vomiting may be one of the first tell-tale signs of pregnancy. Whilst it’s not known exactly what causes morning sickness, it’s thought that it could be down to the number of hormonal changes you’re experiencing during the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.
But just how do you know that it’s morning sickness? Well, you may notice that certain smells start to turn your stomach, or foods you typically enjoy eating start to make you feel queasy. In addition, you may find that your nausea and sickness are accompanied by feelings of tiredness and fatigue
And don’t be fooled by the name. Despite the fact that it’s called ‘morning sickness’ it can occur at any time of the day or night.
Will morning sickness affect my baby?
There’s no getting away from it, morning sickness and pregnancy nausea can be very unpleasant and, in some cases, can seriously affect you day-to-day. Because of this, you might be concerned about how it might affect your growing baby.
The good news is that, in most cases, morning sickness is nothing to worry about, and as long as you’re able to eat and drink normally, it won’t affect the health of you or your baby.
Some women develop a severe morning sickness known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which can have an impact on your baby in terms of their growth and birthweight. So, if you find that you’re constantly struggling to keep your food and fluids down, or feel very unwell, it’s best to seek advice from your doctor to help you manage your symptoms.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (severe morning sickness)
While it’s common to experience some morning sickness and pregnancy nausea, some women will develop Hyperemesis Gravidarum, also known as severe morning sickness.
Signs and symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum include:
- Severe nausea and prolonged vomiting.
- Dehydration; this may include feeling very thirsty, tired, dizzy or lightheaded, not going for a wee as often as you normally would and your urine being very dark in colour and strong in smell.
- Weight loss.
- Low blood pressure (hypotension).
In some cases, the symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum will start to show improvement at around 20 weeks, but it’s not uncommon for them to go on for longer, or for your entire pregnancy.
If you’re showing symptoms or have concerns about the level of morning sickness you’re experiencing, you should always speak to your midwife or GP. They can help you to manage the symptoms, and rule out any other conditions that may be causing your sickness and nausea.
Common questions about morning sickness
Why do you get morning sickness when you’re pregnant?
No one knows exactly what the cause of morning sickness is. However, it’s thought that it could be down to the rising levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in your body during early pregnancy.
You’re also more likely to suffer with morning sickness if it runs in your family, or if:
- You’re carrying twins or multiples.
- This is your first pregnancy.
- You have a history of migraines and headaches.
- You suffer with motion sickness.
Is it possible to go through pregnancy without morning sickness?
Yes. Some women will go through their entire pregnancy without experiencing morning sickness or pregnancy nausea.
As we’ve said above, whilst there are certain factors that may mean you’re more susceptible to it, it’s by no means a guarantee.
When does morning sickness start?
As a general rule of thumb, morning sickness usually starts during the first trimester of your pregnancy, approximately 7 weeks after your first missed period.
Remember that no two pregnancies are the same, and everyone’s experience is different. For some women, the pregnancy nausea will kick in sooner, for others it will come later. And some women won’t experience morning sickness at all.
When does morning sickness peak in pregnancy?
If you’re experiencing morning sickness, you can usually expect symptoms to peak towards the end of your first trimester, anywhere between weeks 9 and 12. This is when your levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG are at their highest.
How long does morning sickness last?
There’s really no way of knowing for sure how long your morning sickness will last. However, it usually starts to ease off anywhere between 16 and 20 weeks of your pregnancy.
Again, every pregnancy is different and there’s no hard and fast rule here. If you’re struggling with pregnancy nausea and morning sickness, and it’s starting to take its toll on your everyday life, try talking to your midwife or GP for support.
Can morning sickness come and go?
Yes, it can. Morning sickness is unpredictable and doesn’t necessarily follow a particular pattern.
It might be that you feel nauseous all day long, or that it’s worse at certain times of the day or night. Alternatively, you may find that you get waves of nausea on and off and at random times.
Can morning sickness last all day?
Unfortunately, yes. For some women, morning sickness and pregnancy nausea last all day, and it’s not uncommon to experience morning sickness at night.
Despite its name, it can affect you at any time of the day, and for extended periods of time. This can really start to have a negative impact on daily life, so be sure to reach out if you need support and don’t be afraid to rest and relax when you need to.
Is morning sickness worse when pregnant with twins?
It’s thought that you might be more at risk of morning sickness if you’re pregnant with twins or multiples. However, there’s no firm evidence to confirm that this is the case.
Just as with a single pregnancy, some women carrying twins will experience severe morning sickness and others none at all. There’s just no way of knowing.
Morning sickness remedies
If you’re wondering what to take for pregnancy sickness, or what the best treatment for nausea during pregnancy is, unfortunately, there’s no solid answer. Every pregnancy is different, and whilst some remedies will work for some women, they won’t be effective for others.
If you’re suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum or chronic morning sickness, your GP may recommend a course of medication, but in most cases there are no set treatments or guaranteed remedies.
How to handle morning sickness
If you’re experiencing morning sickness, there are some changes that you can make to your everyday life that may go some way to easing the symptoms.
If you feel sick, rest
We know that this might be easier said than done, particularly if you’re juggling full time work and other children. However, it’s important that you take some time to sit or lie down if you’re feeling unwell, and ideally do so until your nausea has passed.
Keep a symptom diary
Keeping a diary of how you’re feeling physically will help you to spot any patterns in your symptoms. From here, you can try and make adjustments to your lifestyle - eating, drinking and being active during certain hours for example.
If you’re dealing with more constant and severe morning sickness, this is likely to be more difficult.
Eat little and often
When you’re feeling nauseous, the thought of a full meal can be really unappetising. Whilst it’s important to get the energy and nutrients your body needs to support your pregnancy, don’t force yourself to eat big meals at set times.
Instead, try eating little and often, and keep healthy and nutritious snacks with you so that you can top up your energy levels throughout the day.
Avoid spicy, oily and very sugary foods
Spicy, oily and sugary foods can often lead to acid reflux, leaving you more susceptible to nausea and vomiting.
Some of the common culprits to avoid if you can include:
- Coffee and tea.
- Fizzy drinks.
- Grapefruit and orange.
- Fried foods.
It’s also a good idea to avoid eating late at night.
Which foods help with morning sickness?
When it comes to which foods help with morning sickness, there’s no one size fits all solution.
As with any other type of sickness or nausea, it’s a good idea to stick to bland, dry food that’s easy to digest, such as pasta, crackers, and dry bread, and eat them in small amounts. Foods that are high in carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread will not only satisfy your appetite, they’ll also help to regulate your blood sugar levels and provide you with some much-needed energy.
During your pregnancy, eating a healthy balanced diet is important to keep you and your growing baby healthy. You can read more about healthy eating in pregnancy here.
Morning sickness and your mental health
Feeling unwell for a prolonged period of time may well start to affect the way you feel about your pregnancy. Try not to compare your pregnancy experience to anyone else's. Everyone has their own pregnancy journey, and yours is unique to you.
If you feel that your symptoms are starting to have an effect on your mental health, it’s important that you seek support from your midwife or GP, and talk to your friends and family about how you feel.
You’re not alone, and you can find more information on perinatal support in Ireland, here.
Dr Shazia Malik
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- Koren G et al. The protective effects of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy against adverse fetal outcome – a systematic review. Reprod Toxicol 2014;47:77-80.
- NHS Start 4 Life. Week-by-week guide to pregnancy. [Online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/pregnancy/week-by-week/1st-trimester/week-9/ [Accessed October 2020]
- NHS. Signs and symptoms of pregnancy. [Online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/signs-and-symptoms-pregnancy [Accessed October 2020]
- NHS. Your healthy twin pregnancy. 2019. [Online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/twins-healthy-multiple-pregnancy/ [Accessed October 2020]
- Pregnancy Sickness Support. Ginger is ineffective for hyperemesis gravidarum, and causes harm: an internet based survey of sufferers. 2015. [Online] Available at: https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/documents/research%20papers/ginger-article.pdf [Accessed October 2020]
Last reviewed: 27th September 2022
Reviewed by: Dr Shazia Malik
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