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Morning sickness

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Morning sickness is very common in the early stages of pregnancy. It is estimated that up to 3 in 4 mothers experience nausea or vomiting, typically within the first 3-5 months of their pregnancy. Nausea is when you feel sick, and vomiting is when you are sick. Contrary to popular belief, morning sickness happens not only in the morning, but at any time of the day. It is quite unpleasant and, depending on the severity, can really affect your daily activities, but thankfully does not tend to negatively affect your baby.

The cause is largely unknown, but it is suggested that it is related to the increased levels of pregnancy hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and hCG.

What puts me at risk of developing morning sickness?

There are a number of factors that may increase your risk of developing morning sickness:

  • This is your first pregnancy
  • You have more than one child
  • Your mother or grandmother had morning sickness
  • You had morning sickness in previous pregnancies
  • You suffer from motion sickness, migraines, or sickness with estrogen-containing contraceptives

What can you do at home to manage your symptoms?

If your symptoms are mild, you can try to manage your symptoms in the following ways: drink plenty of fluids, sipping little and often throughout the day. It is important to rest because vomiting can leave you very tired, and tiredness can make your nausea worse.

There is some research that suggests consuming ginger and acupressure (using a band/bracelet to apply pressure to your wrist area) can be beneficial in reducing morning sickness symptoms - and it would be advised to talk to your pharmacist about these options to find out what best works for you.

Avoid smells or sights that may trigger your nausea, and avoid eating large, heavy meals in one sitting. Instead, opt for smaller meals with more carbohydrates more frequently. It is still important, where possible, to have nutritious meals for you and your baby's development. Bland, easily digestible foods like bananas and toast, soups and shakes, or fruits and vegetables full of water (like watermelons and cucumbers) are recommended, but it is worth experimenting with what works for you.

Is there medication that can help?

If there is no improvement with home treatment methods or your symptoms are very severe, it is important to speak to your doctor or midwife about starting medication.

They may recommend a short course of anti-sickness medications (called antiemetics) that are safe to use in pregnancy. They are effective for allergy relief but also have anti-sickness properties, which make them effective in treating morning sickness too.

It can be a trial and error to find the correct medication, as not every woman is the same, and not every pregnancy is the same. Antiemetics are usually given as tablets, but if you are unable to keep anything down, they may be given as an injection instead.

Are there any complications of morning sickness?

A severe form of morning sickness is called hyperemesis gravidarum. This is where severe vomiting can lead to dehydration or malnourishment because you are unable to keep enough fluids or food down. You will need to be assessed by your doctor for replacement fluids and anti-sickness medication through a drip into your vein. Dehydration from vomiting can also put you at risk of infections, commonly urinary tract infections.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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