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Morning Sickness Blues

Nausea and vomiting are common in early pregnancy. Learn ways to manage the discomfort.

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Pregnancy can be a time of great joy and anticipation. But your happiness may be dampened by a queasy stomach — something often referred to as morning sickness.

What is morning sickness?

Despite its name, morning sickness — nausea and vomiting during pregnancy — is not necessarily confined to the morning. You may have it at any time of the day. It might last a few weeks or throughout your pregnancy. You might feel a little queasy or you might have severe nausea and vomiting.

And it’s common. Seventy to 85 percent of pregnant women experience morning sickness during the first trimester.

No one knows exactly what causes morning sickness. Hormonal changes early in pregnancy are believed to play a role. For example, women with extreme morning sickness have high estrogen levels. Hormones may slow digestion, possibly contributing to the symptoms. Your symptoms may be made worse by hunger, fatigue, prenatal vitamins and other factors.

How long will it last?

Morning sickness disappears in the fourth month for about half of the women who have it. Some women, though, have symptoms all through their pregnancy.

Is my nausea bad for my baby?

Morning sickness doesn't generally harm the fetus. In fact, women with morning sickness miscarry less often. But it can become a problem if you can't keep enough foods or fluids down. This can deprive the fetus of needed nutrition.

Are there tips for coping with morning sickness?

Yes. Some work better than others, depending on the woman. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Eat crackers before you get out of bed each morning.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day.
  • Avoid fatty foods.
  • Try eating foods that are blander and less spicy.
  • Try eating or drinking something with real ginger (non-diet ginger ale, ginger tea or ginger pops).
  • Avoid foods or smells that bother you.

Are there any medicines for morning sickness?

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that the use of vitamin B6 alone or together with doxylamine is safe and effective for nausea. If the ideas above don’t help, ask your doctor if you can try vitamin B6 with doxylamine.

Intravenous fluids and anti-nausea medications may be needed in cases of severe morning sickness. Dehydration is a key concern for women with severe morning sickness.

Talk to your doctor

Have a conversation early on with your doctor about morning sickness or the potential for morning sickness. Follow your doctor’s advice about when to call him or her and when to seek additional medical care.

Letting your doctor know about your morning sickness is especially important if you live with a chronic illness such as diabetes or take medication for chronic illness. If you have diabetes, it’s important to make a plan with your doctor about morning sickness so you can understand how it could affect your diabetes treatment plan.

Seek medical care if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • You haven’t been able to keep food or drink down. (Note: your doctor may advise seeking care earlier if you’re living with a condition like diabetes, for example.)
  • You feel faint, lightheaded or dizzy.
  • You have blood in your vomit.
  • You have signs of dehydration: dry mouth, little or no urine, dark-colored urine.
  • You lose more than 5 pounds.
  • You have abdominal pain.
  • Your heart beats unusually fast or hard.

By Emily Gurnon, Contributing Writer

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Childbirth, 6th ed. Washington, DC; ACOG 2015.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Morning sickness: Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Accessed: June 15, 2016.
UpToDate. Patient information: Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Accessed: June 15, 2016. Pregnancy: Body changes and discomforts. Accessed: June 15, 2016.

Last Updated: June 16, 2016