Morning Sickness Symptoms and Causes

Morning Sickness Symptoms: What to Expect During Pregnancy

March 1, 2019

Morning Sickness Symptoms: What to Expect During Pregnancy

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. After all, how many rom-com heroines figure out they’re pregnant when they suddenly have to throw up in the nearest wastebasket?

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 morning sickness or something else making you feel sick? How would you know if it were a severe condition that requires an IV and meds? And how can you get through the day when you’re dealing with so much nausea and vomiting?

We have answers to your biggest questions about morning sickness symptoms and how to deal with it.

When Does Morning Sickness Start?

It’s common for morning sickness sufferers to start to feel icky around 6 weeks pregnant. But for some, it takes a little longer before they begin a strict diet of saltines and ginger ale and storing barf bags in the glove compartment. Morning sickness tends to peak in the first trimester.

How Long Does Morning Sickness Last?

Sorry but morning sickness symptoms can last for weeks or even months. According to the American College of Obstetricians, it goes away by the start of the second trimester (14 weeks pregnant) for most pregnant women.

But if your morning sickness lingers after 14 weeks pregnant—or if you can’t keep any food or liquids down—tell your healthcare provider. These are signs of hyperemesis gravidarum, a more severe condition that is basically morning sickness symptoms on steroids. HG can cause dehydration, weight loss and electrolyte imbalance and can get pretty serious, so it should be treated by a doctor.

What Causes Morning Sickness?

Morning sickness is typically blamed on the hormones that flood your system when you become pregnant. It has also been linked to proteins released by the placenta. But doctors don’t truly know the purpose of all that unpleasantness.

One theory is that morning sickness symptoms are evolution’s way of preventing moms-to-be from eating potentially harmful foods while the fetus is most vulnerable.

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

Morning Sickness Symptoms and Signs

Morning sickness is nausea and/or vomiting caused by pregnancy. And no, it doesn’t only happen in the a.m.—this pregnancy symptom can strike at any time of day.

What is morning sickness like? Well, it can be different for different women. 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 morning symptoms, and it’s hard to predict what your unique experience will be like. Some women even have different morning sickness symptom experiences from one pregnancy to the other!

You could even be one of the lucky one-in-five pregnant women 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 include:

  • Late start: If you have nausea or vomiting that starts after 9 weeks pregnant, it might not be morning sickness at all. Look into other potential causes.
  • Pain: If you also have stomach pain or abdominal pain or tenderness, you could have another problem, such as food poisoning or an ulcer.
  • Fever: A fever is a sign of illness, not a morning sickness sign.
  • Headache: Same goes for headache. If you have one, there might be some other explanation for your nausea, though headaches can 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.

If you have any of the above symptoms, tell your doc and get checked out.

How to Treat Morning Sickness

We’re not promising you’re going to feel like a million bucks, but typical morning sickness symptoms can be eased using a few smart strategies. You’ll have to troubleshoot a bit to see what survival plan works best for you, but we recommend trying any and all of these:

  • Keep food in your nightstand: Really! Eating first thing in the morning can help settle your stomach before you even get out bed.
  • Eat often: And really, don’t let your belly get empty if at all possible, because that’s when morning sickness symptoms tend to strike.
  • Keep meals small: Don’t overwhelm that tummy 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. Also, sip drinks throughout the day; don’t guzzle them down. Some women find sparkling waters help ease the queasiness.
  • Go with it: We get the guilt of not wanting healthy foods (like salad!) and just wanting to subsist on grilled cheese for now. But seriously, just eat the grilled cheese if that’s all you can stomach. 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 women find that starchy foods like crackers and chips curb their morning sickness symptoms. Others get more relief from nuts and poultry.
  • Try different flavors: Ginger, lemon and watermelon are just a few flavors (and scents) that help some women soothe morning sickness symptoms. Try them fresh, or stock up 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: These are considered safe to take and have shown to ease morning sickness symptoms in medical studies.
  • Doxylamine: This antihistamine is typically used to treat allergies but 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. Talk over all the pros and cons with your doctor.

Remember: Don’t take anything—whether it’s a supplement or an OTC or prescription med—unless your healthcare provider gives the OK. And hang in there! You may feel terrible, but your baby’s doing just fine on the inside—and the morning sickness will end eventually!

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