Morning Sickness

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 09, 2022
4 min read

Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that happens during pregnancy. More than half of pregnant women have nausea and vomiting, especially during the first trimester.

Despite its name, you can have morning sickness at any time of day. It doesn't mean your baby is sick, and it doesn't hurt the baby. Pregnancy nausea is probably caused by the sudden increase of hormones in your body. It's usually mild and goes away about midway through your pregnancy. Some women never feel nauseated during their pregnancy.

Some women get a severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum. This happens when severe nausea and vomiting leads to dehydration or causes the woman to lose more than 5% of her pregnancy body weight. Sometimes, she may not get enough nutrients, leading to malnourishment. The woman may have to stay in the hospital to get fluids, medication, and rarely, a feeding tube.

General symptoms of morning sickness include:

  • Nausea with or without vomiting during the first trimester that feels like motion sickness
  • Nausea that comes on in the morning but can resurface at any time or go on all day
  • Feeling sick from smelling certain foods and other odors
  • Nausea after eating, especially spicy foods
  • Nausea or vomiting brought on by heat and severe salivation

Call your doctor if you:

  • Have flu-like symptoms, which may be a sign of illness
  • Feel dizzy or lethargic
  • Have severe vomiting constantly or several times a day
  • Can't keep down any fluids or foods and are losing weight
  • Think your nausea may be caused by iron in your prenatal vitamin
  • Want to take anti-nausea medication or try a treatment like acupuncture

Experts aren’t sure, but pregnancy hormones may cause nausea. In the case of severe nausea and vomiting, there could be another medical condition that isn’t related to pregnancy.

Things that may make you more likely to have morning sickness include:

  • Morning sickness during a previous pregnancy
  • A sensitive stomach before pregnancy. This includes motion sickness, migraines, sensitivity to certain smells or tastes, or taking birth control pills.
  • You're pregnant with twins or other multiples. You’ll have higher levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG than a woman carrying one baby.

You’re at higher risk of hyperemesis gravidarum if:

  • You're expecting a girl.
  • Hyperemesis gravidarum runs in your family.
  • You had it during a previous pregnancy.

Diagnosing morning sickness is based on your signs and symptoms. If your doctor suspects you have hyperemesis gravidarum, they may also order urine or blood tests.

For moderate to severe morning sickness, your doctor may recommend:

  • Vitamin B6 supplements (pyridoxine)
  • Natural remedies like ginger
  • Over-the-counter drugs like doxylamine (Unisom)
  • Prescription anti-nausea medications for persistent symptoms
  • Extra fluids if the symptoms are severe enough to cause dehydration

To treat hyperemesis gravidarum, you may need to stay in the hospital and get:

  • Fluids through a vein (intravenous, or IV)
  • Anti-nausea medications (antiemetics)
  • Corticosteroid medications

You can also try some of these home remedies:

  • Eat five or six small meals instead of three big ones.
  • Take a multivitamin regularly. Don't take it on an empty stomach.
  • Avoid smells that upset your stomach.
  • Eat saltine crackers, dry toast, or dry cereal before you get out of bed to calm your stomach.
  • Avoid spicy and fatty foods.
  • When you feel nauseated, eat bland foods that are easy to digest, like rice, bananas, chicken broth, gelatin, or ice pops.
  • Take in plenty of fluids. Suck on ice or sip water, weak tea, or clear sodas like ginger ale when you feel nauseated. Aim for six to eight cups of non-caffeinated fluids per day.
  • Get fresh air. Go outdoors and take a walk, or just open a window.
  • Rinse your mouth after vomiting. This will keep the acid in your stomach from damaging your teeth. You can also add baking soda to a cup of water before rinsing for more protection.
  • Some women find that acupressure wristbands ease nausea.
  • Acupuncture, in which hair-thin needles are put into your skin at specific points, might also relieve symptoms.
  • Herbal ginger supplements can relieve nausea. Most studies show ginger to be safe, but talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.
  • Some women find relief with essential oils in calming scents like lavender.
  • Hypnosis might also relieve nausea.