A Guide to Morning Sickness

Article By
Published On
22 Feb, 2021
Read Time
6 minutes

Pregnancy is amazing, for a whole host of different reasons - the main one being the birth of your beautiful baby! But the truth is, it also comes with some not-so-amazing little gifts along the way - we're talking morning or pregnancy sickness.

When you're pregnant, your senses are heightened - like Spiderman. Unlike Spiderman, this makes you super sensitive to certain foods and smells. This can bring nausea and vomiting that can have a negative impact on your day-to-day life.

Sickness during pregnancy is not uncommon and up to eight out of ten pregnant people experience some nausea and/or vomiting during pregnancy, so you're not alone!

We're here to support you by answering some of the most asked questions about morning sickness and giving you some top tips to cope with the symptoms of morning sickness.

When in pregnancy does morning sickness start?

Typically, sickness during pregnancy strikes between weeks six and nine of your first trimester - around the same time that cravings commonly start.

Symptoms can appear gradually, with an increased aversion to certain foods and smell over time, or can seem to develop overnight, like a bad hangover.

The peak of morning sickness

Although every pregnancy is different, sickness symptoms are usually at their worst around week 10 or 12.

Unfortunately, despite the name, 'morning' sickness isn't just reserved for the morning. It can hit at any time - day or night. According to one study, 80% to 95% of people experience nausea in the afternoon or throughout the day.

How many weeks does morning sickness last for?

Most pregnant people will start experiencing nausea and vomiting from around six to nine weeks, and most will notice their symptoms ease at around 16 to 20 weeks.  

Some experience morning sickness for longer and can see it last for several months or even the duration of their pregnancy.

While uncommon, between 0.3% and 10.8% of pregnant people can experience a severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum or HG.

What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

Hyperemesis gravidarum - also referred to as HG - is severe morning sickness that can make people very ill throughout the entirety of their pregnancy. This can lead to severe dehydration and hospitalization. It's not clear why some people suffer more from sickness during pregnancy, although hormone levels and a family history of HG have been noted as potential causes.

The Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation (HER) is a global nonprofit that's dedicated to helping people with hyperemesis gravidarum.

What does morning sickness feel like?

Pregnancy sickness affects every pregnant person differently. Some feel nauseated for a short time each day and vomit once or twice. Others experience nausea that lasts several hours each day and they vomit more often.

Some people liken pregnancy sickness to seasickness or car sickness accompanied by hunger pangs, and it can lead to strong aversions to certain smells and foods that can make you sick.

Some report having a metallic taste in their mouth that causes them to feel unwell, and others report excess saliva which can enhance the feeling of queasiness. 

Top morning sickness remedies

  1. Motion sickness bands: Available from most pharmacies, these bands put pressure on an acupressure point in the inner wrist and are designed to ease travel sickness, but they can also alleviate symptoms of morning sickness.
  2. Peppermint: Drinking peppermint tea can soothe and relax your gastric muscles and reduce cramps.
  3. Prenatal vitamins: If you find that swallowing your prenatal vitamins in the morning contributes to an upset stomach, try taking them in the evening with a small, healthy snack.
  4. Protein: Non-meat sources of protein, including dairy foods and nuts and seeds, can help to settle sickness symptoms.
  5. Scent therapy: Some pregnant people find that lightly scented essential oils can help ease nausea. You can try popping some chamomile, ginger, lemon, orange, or peppermint oil into a diffuser or dab a few drops onto a piece of cotton wool and inhale the soothing aroma.
  6. Sour foods: For some, sour or bitter foods like lemons and crisp green apples help to alleviate nausea and vomiting. Try drinking a squeeze of lemon in some hot water.

Top Tip

If you're not a lover of ginger, now is the time to wean yourself onto it. Ginger can ease symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Ginger tea, biscuits, supplements - there are a bunch of different methods you can try.

Do all pregnant people get morning sickness?

About 80% of pregnant people experience morning sickness. So, you can pretty much guarantee that at least one of your mom friends will understand what you're going through.

However, everyone experiences symptoms in very different ways. Some avoid sickness altogether and just have the feeling of nausea throughout their first trimester. Others struggle to eat anything without being sick. If you're in the second group, you should speak to your doctor or midwife. 

Every pregnancy is different, and even if you've experienced sickness or food aversions in a previous pregnancy, that doesn't mean you'll necessarily experience the same symptoms in this or future pregnancies.

Can morning sickness come in waves?

Once you've gotten used to certain pregnancy symptoms, it can be a bit alarming when those symptoms stop or change.

But many pregnancy symptoms can be erratic. You might notice swift changes in your mood, food cravings, and even morning sickness - this is normal. One day you may feel totally fine and the next, the sickness may come back with a vengeance. 

If you're worried that your pregnancy symptoms have subsided, you can always ask your doctor. But unpredictable and inconsistent morning sickness symptoms are normal and, most of the time, nothing to worry about. 

What helps to ease morning sickness?

Let's run through some morning sickness remedies you can use to help relieve your symptoms.

  • Avoiding nausea triggers: This is your time to be picky about the food and smells around you. If you're working in an office and Janet from HR brings a tuna sandwich for her lunch, let her know that that's not cool. Anything to avoid nausea triggers is worth it, even if it does annoy Janet!
  • Drinking lots of fluids: Even though you might be visiting the loo much more often than you're used to, you still need to make sure you're keeping yourself hydrated through the day. It might seem a lot but try and aim for around 10 glasses of non-caffeinated liquids a day. After a while, it'll just become part of your daily routine - which is a great thing to keep with you after the birth of your little one. 
  • Eating small amounts regularly: It can be a bit grueling to finish a whole meal while you're struggling with morning sickness, but sickness on an empty stomach just makes things worse. Try to eat little and often throughout the day. Bland snacks like crackers and dry toast are ideal for keeping your tummy full without triggering nausea.

When to contact your doctor about morning sickness

You should tell your doctor or contact the hospital as soon as possible if you:

  • have tried self-help remedies and nothing has eased your symptoms
  • can't keep down any food or fluids for 24-48 hours
  • aren't passing any or very little urine and it's dark in color
  • feel weak or faint and can't stand up for any length of time
  • have lost weight
  • have stomach pain
  • vomit and see blood

What stage does morning sickness end?

Although every pregnancy is unique, sickness symptoms will typically ease off between weeks 16 and 20 of your pregnancy.

Some people (15% to 20%) have morning sickness that lasts into the second trimester, and for 5% of pregnant people, it lasts until the third trimester when their baby is born.

Pregnancy sickness is thought to be caused by an increase in hormones, and new research has found that an excess of a hormone called GDF15 causes it.

Although it's really unpleasant, morning sickness shouldn't put your baby at any increased risk, but it's important to trust your instinct and seek medical attention if you're concerned.

Morning sickness is caused by increased hormone levels so can be an indicator that you are pregnant, but it isn't a reflection of your baby's health. If you are pregnant and worried about the well-being of your baby, it's best to consult a healthcare professional for reassurance.