Morning sickness has made headlines recently. You can hardly surf the web without stumbling upon stories of celebs who’ve experienced it: Comedian Amy Schumer was recently hospitalized (“Baby’s fine but everyone who says the 2nd trimester is better is not telling the full story,” she wrote on Instagram), and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, dealt with severe morning sickness through all three of her pregnancies.
More than half of pregnant women experience morning sickness at some point or another. But what causes it? How early does it start, and when does it end? What’s the deal with hyperemesis gravidarum (the bad morning sickness)? And is there anything expectant moms can do to feel better? Read on to get the lowdown on this pregnancy-related misery.
What Exactly Is Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness is characterized by various symptoms during pregnancy—everything from mild nausea to frequent vomiting. Despite what the name implies, morning sickness can strike anytime day or night—or for some unlucky women, it can last all day or all night. It’s actually more formally referred to as nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, or NVP.
Though there’s no single cause, common culprits behind morning sickness include low blood sugar and elevated pregnancy hormones (estrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG). Symptoms can also worsen in certain situations: stress, fatigue, travel, and particularly twin or triplet pregnancies (due to elevated hormones).
When Does Morning Sickness Start and End?
Of course, not every woman experiences this difficult condition—and it can start at different times for everyone. But most often, morning sickness starts between four weeks and nine weeks into a pregnancy.
For many women, the nauseous feeling goes away at some point during the pregnancy—often it’s the end of the first trimester. For others, it can stick around and last even into labor. It’s important to consult your doctor if morning sickness lasts longer than expected.
Options to Curb Morning Sickness
For some women, morning sickness is a mild misery they can deal with; others need to seek medical attention. Doctors can prescribe a variety of medications, including metoclopramide (“Reglan”) and phenothiazine. They also might recommend over-the-counter medications, such as doxylamine (“Unisom”) to help alleviate nausea or antacids to neutralize excess stomach acid.
Some expectant women turn to natural remedies, such as vitamin B-6 supplements, acupuncture, acupressure (“Sea-Bands”), chiropractic care, essential oils, hypnosis, and ginger products. You can even buy lollipops and lozenges specifically designed to ease a queasy tummy, featuring ingredients like natural sugars and essential oils. However, it’s important to check with your doctor before you begin any alternative treatments or take any supplements.
Find a Routine That Works
If you have morning sickness, make a plan to ease nausea throughout the day. Right after you wake, immediately put something in your stomach (such as saltine crackers you keep on the nightstand). Eat small and frequent meals throughout the day so you never get too hungry. (During pregnancy, progesterone slows down the speed at which food passes through your digestive tract.) Steer clear of overly spicy, greasy, or fatty foods.
Drink small amounts frequently to avoid becoming dehydrated. But it’s best to do so before or after meals rather than during meals to avoid filling up on liquid. Many women find that certain foods and beverages can dramatically ease their pregnancy-related nausea. Others don’t notice a change. We think it’s certainly worth a try. Here are a few popular foods to help alleviate morning sickness
- Saltine crackers
- Salty potato chips or pretzels
- Gelatin dessert
- Peppermint tea
- Lemon water or lemonade
- Sports hydration drinks
The Bottom Line
While morning sickness can be miserable, it’s important to keep in mind that it is temporary—and it brings a significant (and adorable!) reward at the end. If it brings you comfort, keep in mind that many doctors believe that queasiness is a sign that your placenta is developing properly.
However, note that women who don’t have morning sickness have healthy pregnancies too—they simply may have less sensitive tummies or bodies that more easily cope with rising hormone levels.
If you’re dealing with morning sickness, give yourself permission to take it easy and avoid anything that triggers your nausea. Relax with a good book. If smells make you queasy, ask someone else to cook dinner, brew the coffee, or change toddler diapers. Step out for fresh air whenever you need to, and get plenty of rest.
When Morning Sickness Is Serious
The most severe form of NVP is called hyperemesis gravidarum. It is marked by frequent vomiting and often weight loss. It can cause dehydration and even electrolyte imbalances.
Hyperemesis gravidarum requires treatment to ensure both mom and baby remain healthy. Often women with hyperemesis gravidarum require prescription medicines, extra fluids, and even hospitalization.
If you experience severe nausea and vomiting, weight loss, dehydration or decrease in urination, confusion or fainting, headaches, or other troubling symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.