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This is what you can expect from morning sickness

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki is a parenting writer and a mom to three wild boys who keep her on her toes (and occasionally make her question her sanity). With over 15 years of experience in the parenting industry, she has more tips and tricks than Mary Poppins on speed dial. When she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can find her sipping on coffee, hiding in the bathroom for five minutes of...
Created on Oct 10, 2023 · 9 mins read
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Well firstly, we're not sure why it's called morning sickness, because as most pregnant women who’ve suffered from it can attest – it doesn’t just strike in the morning.


Nope, it can hit you any time of the day or night. There are even ways to try and hide it while you are at work. But whilst most mums-to-be cling to the hope that once they reach that second trimester it will all be smooth sailing, and for many mums it is, it’s not always the case.

For those still navigating the choppy waters of morning sickness beyond the first trimester, it’s crucial to understand that this is not uncommon. Severe morning sickness, called hyperemesis gravidarum, can persist well into the second trimester and beyond, affecting daily life and well-being.

Understanding when morning sickness starts—and realising that for some it might continue or even start later—can help. Knowing what triggers such as certain foods, stress, or even motion sickness can worsen your symptoms, can also be a key strategy in managing morning sickness effectively.

What is morning sickness?


When does morning sickness start? Sometime around the 6-week mark of pregnancy and typically eases off around the 12-13 week mark as the second trimester begins.

When you experience morning sickness it’s uncomfortable and pretty darn horrible, however it does not harm the baby and does not pose any direct risk to the pregnancy. However, the loss of fluid through vomiting can lead to dehydration so you must ensure you are replacing the fluids you are losing. Speak with your doctor if you are concerned or your vomiting is excessive and you cannot keep any fluids down.

Morning sickness varies significantly among pregnant women; some may experience only mild symptoms, while others face severe nausea and vomiting. It’s crucial to understand that morning sickness can sometimes peak between the 8th and 10th weeks, even extending beyond the typical first trimester window. For those experiencing severe morning sickness, it is often not just about managing discomfort but ensuring nutritional balance and hydration. Frequent small meals and staying hydrated can help manage the severity of symptoms.

If morning sickness persists beyond the typical timeframe, it may be diagnosed as hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition that requires medical intervention to manage severe vomiting and dehydration risks. This condition can impact a pregnant woman’s health and well-being significantly, necessitating hospitalisation sometimes to manage symptoms effectively. Discussing symptoms with your healthcare provider, especially if you experienced it in a previous pregnancy, can lead to treatments such as anti-nausea medication and IV fluids to support both mother and baby’s health.


When does morning sickness typically start?


Morning sickness usually begins around the sixth week of pregnancy, but this can vary significantly. Some women might start experiencing nausea as early as four weeks into pregnancy, which is right after the first missed period. However, for others, the symptoms may not appear until the seventh or eighth week.

The onset of morning sickness is largely tied to hormonal changes in the body, specifically the increase in the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This hormone rises rapidly during early pregnancy, which is why nausea often coincides with the first few weeks after conception.

Statistics indicate that while the majority of pregnant women start to experience morning sickness between the sixth and eighth weeks, every woman’s body reacts differently to pregnancy. Approximately 80% of pregnant women experience some form of morning sickness. Understanding that the start can vary widely helps in planning and preparing for the weeks to come.

For some women, morning sickness does not occur at all, which is also normal and can be due to lower levels of pregnancy hormones or individual differences in how their bodies adapt to hormonal changes. 

Whether you start to feel morning sickness early or later on, or even not at all, it’s essential to communicate with your healthcare provider to ensure a healthy pregnancy progression.


When does morning sickness peak?


The peak of morning sickness usually occurs between the 9th and 13th weeks of pregnancy. This period can be particularly challenging, as the symptoms of nausea and vomiting may intensify. It’s important for expectant mothers to understand that this peak is typically temporary, and symptoms often begin to decrease as they enter the second trimester.

During this peak phase of morning sickness, the body is adjusting to the high levels of pregnancy hormones, which are essential for maintaining the pregnancy but also trigger the nausea mechanism in the brain. The good news is that as the placenta becomes more established and begins to take over hormone production around the end of the first trimester, the intensity of morning sickness symptoms usually diminishes.

Practical strategies to treat morning sickness during this peak period and until morning sickness subsides include:

  • Staying hydrated: Small, frequent sips of water can help prevent dehydration caused by vomiting.
  • Eating small, frequent meals: Keeping your stomach slightly full can ward off nausea, but avoid large meals that can overwhelm your digestive system.
  • Ginger intake: Ginger tea or candies can be effective in reducing nausea symptoms.
  • Rest: Adequate sleep and the avoidance of stress are crucial, as fatigue can worsen the symptoms.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that while the peak of morning sickness can be distressing, it does not typically cause harm to the baby. In cases where nausea and vomiting are severe and persistent, it might be a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum, which requires medical attention.

Managing morning sickness


Managing morning sickness effectively involves a combination of dietary adjustments, lifestyle changes, and sometimes medical intervention. Here are some practical tips to help alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness:

Dietary changes:

  • Eat small, frequent meals: Eating smaller amounts more frequently can help maintain stable blood sugar levels and prevent the stomach from becoming too full, which can trigger nausea.
  • Bland foods: Bland, starchy foods like toast, crackers, and rice are easier on the stomach. Avoid spicy, fatty, or overly sweet foods that can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Ginger and peppermint: Both are known for their anti-nausea properties. Ginger tea, peppermint candies, or aromatherapy can be soothing.

Lifestyle modifications

  • Stay hydrated: Drink fluids slowly throughout the day rather than large amounts at once. Lemon or mint-flavored water can be more appealing if plain water triggers nausea.
  • Avoid strong smells: Strong culinary smells, perfumes, and other potent scents can trigger nausea. Opt for meals that are less aromatic and use scent-free personal care products.
  • Rest and relaxation: Adequate sleep and stress management can improve symptoms. Consider prenatal yoga or meditation to help manage stress.

Environmental adjustments

  • Ventilation: Ensure your living and working spaces are well-ventilated. Fresh air can help reduce nausea-inducing odors.
  • Positioning: After eating, try to stay upright for at least an hour. Lying down immediately after meals can slow digestion and increase feelings of nausea.

Medical options

  • Vitamin B6 supplements: Often recommended to help reduce nausea.
  • Anti-nausea medications: Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications if your morning sickness is severe and does not respond to natural remedies.

While these strategies can be effective, it’s essential for pregnant women experiencing persistent or severe symptoms to consult with their healthcare provider. Each woman’s experience with morning sickness can vary widely, so personalised advice based on individual health needs is crucial.

What causes morning sickness?


The exact causes of morning sickness are not fully understood, but several factors are believed to play significant roles. Hormonal changes during pregnancy are the primary suspects, particularly the increase in human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and oestrogen when morning sickness begins. These hormonal changes are essential for a healthy pregnancy but can also affect the stomach and the brain’s vomiting centre, leading to nausea.

Hormonal fluctuations
Rapid increases in hormones like hCG and oestrogen are closely linked with morning sickness. These hormones rise quickly during the early stages of pregnancy, which coincides with the onset of nausea.

Gastrointestinal changes
Pregnancy can slow the digestive process, leading to increased stomach acid and altered muscle tone in the digestive tract, which can contribute to nausea.

Sensory sensitivity
Pregnant women often report heightened senses of smell and taste, which can trigger nausea in response to certain odours or foods.

Genetic and physical factors
Some studies suggest that genetic predisposition might affect the likelihood of experiencing severe morning sickness. Additionally, women with a history of motion sickness or migraines may be more susceptible to severe nausea during pregnancy.

Recognising hyperemesis gravidarum


Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a severe form of morning sickness that goes beyond typical nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It’s characterised by severe nausea, persistent vomiting, and substantial weight loss, which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Recognising the symptoms of HG is crucial for timely and effective treatment to ensure the health of both the mother and the foetus.

  1. Persistent and severe nausea and vomiting: Unlike typical morning sickness, HG leads to vomiting that is so frequent and severe it can prevent intake and retention of food and fluids.
  2. Weight loss: Losing 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight due to nausea and vomiting is a common indicator of HG.
  3. Dehydration: Symptoms of dehydration include feeling extremely thirsty, having dry mouth, and producing little to no urine. In severe cases, dehydration can lead to fainting or dizziness.
  4. Electrolyte imbalance: Due to excessive vomiting, women with HG can suffer from dangerous electrolyte imbalances, which may require intravenous fluids or medication.

If you suspect you might have HG, it’s essential to seek medical attention. Treatments for HG can include IV fluids to restore hydration, electrolytes, and vitamins, as well as anti-nausea medications to help control symptoms. In some cases, hospitalisation may be necessary to manage the condition effectively. The more you know about the condition, the better.

When to contact a healthcare provider


While morning sickness is generally considered a normal part of pregnancy, there are times when contacting a healthcare provider is necessary:

  1. Severe symptoms: If you experience severe nausea and vomiting that prevents you from eating or drinking and leads to weight loss, it’s important to consult your doctor. This could be a sign of hyperemesis gravidarum.
  2. Signs of dehydration: Symptoms such as dizziness, reduced urination, or a rapid heartbeat can indicate dehydration and require medical attention.
  3. Unrelieved by home remedies: If traditional home remedies and lifestyle changes do not alleviate your symptoms, professional medical advice may be needed.
  4. Impact on daily life: If morning sickness affects your ability to perform daily tasks, or if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health, reaching out to a healthcare provider can provide reassurance and potentially necessary interventions.

Sources:


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3676933/#:~:text=Nausea%20and%20vomiting%20are%20common,with%20symptoms%20extending%20until%20delivery

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/morning-sickness/symptoms-causes/syc-20375254

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