Morning Sickness

What is Morning Sickness?

Morning sickness is a term used to identify nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Calling it morning sickness seems unfair because the symptoms can last for well beyond the morning.

A large percentage of expectant mothers experience the problem. Morning sickness can start around the four week mark of pregnancy with symptoms worsening over the course of an additional four weeks.

It is still unclear what exactly causes morning sickness to occur. However, most clinicians agree on the fact that this might be a natural reaction to hormonal changes and, particularly, a response to increased levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG or “˜pregnancy hormone’.)

What are the Symptoms of Morning Sickness?

Vomiting and nausea are the most common symptoms of morning sickness. Mothers-to-be can develop further symptoms given that bouts of morning sickness can leave them tired and depleted of energy.

Stress may factor in to the symptoms of morning sickness given the physical and mental changes to the body taking place over the course of a pregnancy.

Morning Sickness Causes

Morning sickness usually occurs at around week six of pregnancy and continues until around week 12. It isn’t fully understood what causes morning sickness, or why some women experience it while others don’t. However, it is thought that changing hormone levels during these early stages of pregnancy are to blame.

During pregnancy, levels of estrogen and progesterone increase in order to make vital changes to the body to support the growing fetus. Progesterone, in particular, helps to relax uterine muscles in order to prevent early childbirth. It is thought that it could also relax muscles in the stomach and intestines, which could lead to an increase in stomach acid and subsequent nausea and vomiting.

Another theory about morning sickness is that it helps to protect the growing baby from toxins which could be ingested by the mother. This explains why certain foods or odors seem to trigger nausea; it tends to be foods which pose high concentrations of toxins that cause most revulsion. Since the fetus is most vulnerable to toxins within the first three months of pregnancy, this might explain why most pregnant women find relief from morning sickness after week 12.

How is Morning Sickness Treated?

Treatment may only be necessary if the conditions associated with morning sickness are a result of possible further medical problems. Healthcare providers recommend taking the following steps to alleviate and possibly avoid morning sickness symptoms:

  • Continually drink small amounts fluid over the course of the day to ward off dehydration.
  • Consume fluids at least 30 minutes before or after a meal and only a minimal amount with your meal.
  • Instead of large portions with meals, stick to several small meals during the day.
  • If you can, snack on crackers at least 15 minutes before you get up to start your day.
  • Rest as often as possible.
  • Avoid rooms and places that may be very warm. The heat may add to the symptoms

Morning Sickness Prevention

It isn’t possible to completely prevent morning sickness, but pregnant women may be able to manage the symptoms by making adaptations to their diet and lifestyle.

Firstly, it’s important to get plenty of rest since nausea can often be made worse when the body is tired. Wearing comfortable clothes and avoiding tight-fitting waistbands may also help.

Eating small meals regularly is often more tolerable than eating three large meals each day. Many women also find that eating cold food is easier, since the odor of cold food is less intense than it is with hot food. This might help to prevent nausea associated with certain odors.

It’s important to drink lots of fluids, particularly if morning sickness is causing vomiting. Sip drinks often rather than gulping large amounts as this will help to prevent vomiting.

Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
March 09, 2018