Morning Sickness Symptoms and Remedies
Morning Sickness Symptoms: What to Expect During Pregnancy
November 16, 2022

Morning Sickness Symptoms: What to Expect During Pregnancy

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Morning Sickness Symptoms: What to Expect During Pregnancy.
Morning Sickness Symptoms: What to Expect During Pregnancy

Morning sickness is probably the most infamous symptom of pregnancy. And even though morning sickness symptoms are pretty well known, they can also throw you for a loop. After all, how do you know whether it’s pregnancy making you feel sick or something else? How much nausea and vomiting is considered normal when you’re pregnant? And how exactly are you supposed to get through the day when you’re constantly getting sick? Here are the answers to all your questions about symptoms of morning sickness and how to deal with them.

When does morning sickness start?

It’s common for morning sickness sufferers to start feeling icky around six weeks pregnant. “Symptoms usually start around six weeks, peak at nine or 10 weeks and then get gradually better,” says Dr. Sarah Yamaguchi. But for some, it takes a little longer before they begin a strict diet of saltines and ginger ale and store barf bags in the glove compartment.

As you start to feel the onset of stereotypical queasiness, there’s another thing to note: “morning sickness” doesn’t just happen in the morning. “It’s a bit of a misnomer; it can happen any time, day or night,” says Dr. Jennifer Lang, Los Angeles-based ob-gyn and author of The Whole 9 Months: A Week-by-Week Pregnancy Nutrition Guide with Recipes for a Healthy Start.

What causes morning sickness?

Morning sickness is typically blamed on the hormones that flood your system when you become pregnant, namely estrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). It’s also been linked to proteins released by the placenta.

While there’s some evidence for what may cause morning sickness, doctors don’t exactly know the purpose of all that unpleasantness. One theory is that “evolutionarily, it may be a protective way to avoid harmful toxins” while the fetus is most vulnerable, Lang says.

Some doctors say morning sickness symptoms are a sign of healthy pregnancy, which is a little reassuring, although there are plenty of healthy babies whose parents didn’t get the queasies. Some people are just more vulnerable to getting nausea, so they’re more likely to have morning sickness symptoms.

Morning Sickness Symptoms

Morning sickness is most often one or a combination of:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Food aversions

What does morning sickness feel like?

It can be different for different people. Some just have mild queasiness here and there for a couple weeks. Others have full-blown nausea and are throwing up, unable to keep any food down. There’s definitely a range in severity of symptoms, and it’s hard to predict what your unique experience will be like. Some people even have different morning sickness experiences from one pregnancy to another.

If you’re not yet feeling sick, you may be lucky—you could be among the one-in-five pregnant people who doesn’t get morning sickness.

Usually, you’ll know you’re experiencing morning sickness symptoms because you won’t have other signs of illness or disease.

Signs it’s not morning sickness

It’s not always typical to feel sick during pregnancy. If you experience any of these symptoms, then it’s likely not morning sickness. It could be food poisoning, the flu or something else, and you should call your doctor.

  • Late start: If you have nausea or vomiting that starts after you’re nine weeks pregnant.
  • Pain: If you have stomach pain, abdominal pain or abdominal tenderness.
  • Fever: A fever is a sign of illness, never a symptom of morning sickness.
  • Headache: Same goes for headache. If you have one, there might be some other explanation for your nausea, though headaches can also be a pregnancy symptom (confusing, we know!).
  • Swelling in the neck: Thyroid problems can sometimes cause nausea. Your thyroid gland is in the front of your neck, so take note if you’re swollen there.

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Morning Sickness Remedies

We’re not promising you’re going to feel like a million bucks, but typical morning sickness symptoms can be eased using a few strategies. You may have to do some trial and error to see what works best for you, but we recommend trying these:

  • Keep food next to your bed. Eating a few crackers or a granola bar first thing in the morning can help settle your stomach before you even get out bed.
  • Eat often. Don’t let your stomach get empty if at all possible, because that’s when morning sickness symptoms tend to feel worse.
  • Keep meals small. Don’t overwhelm your stomach with tons of food, even if you finally have your appetite back and want to take advantage. You may be less likely to aggravate your digestive system if you eat often but in small amounts.
  • Drink sparkling beverages. Some people find sparkling drinks help ease the queasiness. Also, sip drinks throughout the day; don’t guzzle them down.
  • Eat whatever your stomach lets you. We get the guilt of not wanting healthy foods and just wanting to subsist on pastries for now. But if all you can stomach is pastries, then just eat pastries. “I tell my patients to try to be as healthy as they can as far as activity and diet,” Dr. Yamaguchi says, “but in the first trimester, some people have to eat junk food just to get by and that’s just how it is.” Focus on getting food into your body for now. When you feel better, you can concentrate more on balanced nutrition.
  • Experiment with carbs vs. proteins. Some pregnant people find that starchy foods like crackers and chips curb their morning sickness symptoms. Others get more relief from protein, like nuts and poultry.
  • Try different flavors. Ginger, peppermint and lemon are just a few flavors (and scents) that help soothe morning sickness symptoms. Try them fresh or stock up on drinks, candies or lollipops with the flavors that help you most.
  • Avoid offending smells and flavors. Can’t stand the sight or smell of certain foods? Stay far, far away.

If your morning sickness symptoms are severe, your healthcare provider might prescribe:

  • Vitamin B6 supplements. Medical studies have shown that “taking vitamin B6 supplements could help,” Dr. Yamaguchi says, and they’re generally considered safe to take during pregnancy.
  • Doxylamine: Also known as Unisom, this antihistamine-sleep aid combo may also help with morning sickness symptoms.
  • Anti-nausea medication. There are some anti-nausea drugs that are considered safe to take during pregnancy and may be worth taking if the morning sickness symptoms are interfering with your ability to get through the day. “Medicines like diclegis [could] help with morning sickness and [there are other] stronger medicines that [can] treat vomiting,” Dr. Yamaguchi says. Talk over all the pros and cons with your healthcare provider.

Remember: Don’t take anything—whether it’s a supplement, an over-the-counter medication or a prescription medication—unless your healthcare provider gives the OK.

When does morning sickness end?

There’s typically a slow decline in morning sickness symptoms until you should be feeling more like yourself around 14 weeks pregnant.

But each pregnancy is different, and your morning sickness could last longer or shorter than others. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, morning sickness typically goes away by the start of the second trimester for most pregnant people.

If your morning sickness lingers after week 14—or if you can’t keep any food or liquids down at all—tell your healthcare provider. These are signs of hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition that is basically a much more extreme version of morning sickness. HG can cause dehydration, weight loss and electrolyte imbalance, and it can sometimes involve hospitalization to make sure you’re properly rehydrated.

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