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Morning sickness

6-minute read

Morning sickness is a feeling of nausea or the experience of vomiting during pregnancy, most commonly during the first trimester. Despite its name, morning sickness can happen at any time of the day or night. While most pregnant women experience morning sickness at some point, for many women, it will pass by the second trimester.

Why do pregnant women get morning sickness?

Although the exact cause of morning sickness is unknown, it is associated with hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy.

An imbalance of dietary potassium and magnesium, low blood sugar and low levels of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) are all known causes of nausea. Following a diet that includes whole foods with a wide range of vitamins and minerals will help you stay healthy and well during your pregnancy.

Why does it affect some women more than others?

Some women are more likely to feel nauseous during pregnancy than others. While morning sickness is hard to predict, women who have experienced morning sickness in a previous pregnancy are more likely to have it again.

How long does morning sickness last?

You are more likely to feel morning sickness between 6 and 14 weeks of pregnancy, during your first trimester. While it is commonly known as ‘morning’ sickness, it may last throughout the day or night.

It is unusual to experience morning sickness for the first time after week 10 of pregnancy, so if this happens to you, consult your doctor to rule out other health conditions and to give you peace of mind.

How can I relieve morning sickness?

To relieve morning sickness, consider:

  • eating smaller meals more often (include morning and afternoon snacks between main meals)
  • eating a plain cracker shortly after waking up
  • drinking water before and after a meal, rather than with food
  • aiming to drink 8 glasses of water a day
  • avoiding spicy or fatty foods
  • eating protein-rich foods (such as nuts or cheese)
  • avoiding skipping meals

Soda (or carbonated) water and ginger/peppermint tea are also known to help relieve nausea and settle an upset stomach.

Some women become more sensitive to strong food smells while pregnant. If certain smells bother you, consider asking for help preparing your food. You can also increase ventilation in your kitchen while cooking by opening windows to get rid of cooking smells. Cold foods produce less odour than hot foods, so you may find these more appetising.

Nausea may feel worse when you are over-tired, and taking rest or nap breaks frequently throughout the day may help. Other suggestions include:

  • deep breathing or relaxation exercises
  • anti-nausea wristbands (available at most chemists)
  • acupuncture treatments (but only when administered by a qualified practitioner trained in maternal care)

Be sure to check with your doctor before you take any supplement, prescription or over-the-counter medicine, especially while pregnant.

Is morning sickness harmful for my baby?

Even though morning sickness can be unpleasant and distressing, there is no research to suggest that it causes harm to your baby. Nausea may, however, influence your food choices. Both you and your baby need an ongoing source of a range of nutrients in the foods you eat. Speak with a health professional if you think that your morning sickness is getting in the way of healthy eating.

It is also important to prevent dehydration, so if you are vomiting and unable to keep fluids down, see your doctor immediately.

What do I do if my morning sickness is severe?

When morning sickness is severe, it is known as hyperemesis gravidarum. A pregnant woman who experiences severe vomiting for an extended period of time may need monitoring and treatment in hospital. An intravenous (IV) drip is inserted to replace essential salts and fluids and prevent dehydration. If you are vomiting whenever you eat or drink, consult a health care professional, since early treatment can protect you and your baby from health complications.

When should I see my doctor about morning sickness?

If nausea or vomiting is causing significant discomfort, or if you suspect that you have hyperemesis gravidarum, you should see your doctor.

Other signs you need to see a doctor include:

  • very dark urine
  • blood in vomit
  • extreme fatigue
  • dramatic weight loss
  • dehydration due to inability to keep fluids down

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Pregnancy problems Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

In some cases, a doctor may advise a home remedy. In other cases, they may refer you to another healthcare professional, such as a dietitian — to help you create a healthy and enjoyable meal plan — or to a specialist for further tests. Your doctor may prescribe you with medicine to ease your symptoms, such as an antiemetic (to prevent vomiting), or vitamin and mineral supplements.

If your symptoms persist after treatment, it is a good idea to return to your doctor for another consultation — there may be another approach you can try.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

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Last reviewed: September 2021

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