When it comes to pregnancy, one of the most common symptoms is morning sickness. This is why any female who feels nauseous can be targeted with jokes saying she is pregnant.
However, morning sickness is no laughing matter. Not only is it uncomfortable, some severe forms of morning sickness (such as hyperemesis gravidarum) can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance and require hospitalisation.
What Causes Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness can make a pregnant person feel nauseous, and sometimes this will lead to vomiting. There is no specific answer for defining what causes morning sickness; however, according to the Mayo Clinic, the dramatic hormone changes of pregnancy may play a role, specifically human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and progesterone.
Only in rare cases is severe or persistent nausea or vomiting in pregnancy caused by a medical condition that is not connected to pregnancy, such as liver disease or thyroid disorders.
Anyone who is pregnant is at risk of having morning sickness, but the risk might increase if you:
- Feel nauseous from motion sickness,
- Get migraines,
- Have been exposed to estrogen (in birth control pills for example) before pregnancy,
- If you have had morning sickness before in pregnancy or if you are pregnant with twins or other multiples.
Whereas it is said that your risk of experiencing extreme morning sickness such as hyperemesis gravidarum increases if you:
- Are pregnant with a girl,
- Have hyperemesis gravidarum is in your family history,
- Have had hyperemesis gravidarum in a previous pregnancy.
Naturally, women with morning sickness are concerned that it will harm both the mother and the growing baby, whereas the NHS state both are not likely to harm the mother or the baby if treated effectively. According to research carried out by the NIH (National Institutes of Health), they have produced the most substantial evidence to date showing that women who experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy are associated with a lower risk of miscarriage.
The NHS also states that if your morning sickness is causing you to lose weight, then there would be an increased risk for the baby to have a low birth weight, which means the baby is born smaller in size than it should be at birth.
If you have extreme morning sickness, then you must speak to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible to avoid any unwanted side effects. For more mild morning sickness cases, we have listed some ways to try to obtain relief below.
How Long Does Morning Sickness Last?
These symptoms usually start early on in the pregnancy but will usually last for a number of weeks and typically subside by the 14th week of pregnancy.
For some women, nausea can linger all day long with occasional vomiting throughout the day. Some get the occasional urge to vomit without lingering nausea, whilst others can feel nauseous all day without actually throwing up.
Despite its name, morning sickness can happen at any time of the day. Even though pregnancy in itself is a challenging (and rewarding!) experience, morning sickness can be one of the most difficult parts of pregnancy for some women.
Morning sickness is said to happen to UK women in 9 out of 10 pregnancies in the early stages of pregnancy. However, extreme morning sickness affects roughly 1 to 3 out of 100 pregnant women in the UK.
How to Get Relief From Morning Sickness Symptoms
There is sadly no cure for morning sickness, although there are ways to help manage morning sickness. The effectiveness of the following suggestions varies from person to person, and it is essential to remember that spontaneous improvement can occur on its own as your pregnancy progresses.
To try to obtain relief from morning sickness, try the following suggestions:
- Sleep Well, Move & Relax - In pregnancy, it is beneficial in general to sleep well at night (that means switching off your phone and all other blue light-emitting devices at least 1 hour before bed and to practice sleep hygiene), gentle movement and exercise during the day is carried out and stress adequately managed. All of these healthy habits are important during pregnancy and may also help offer relief from morning sickness.
- Eat Small & Frequently - Instead of eating large meals or snacks which can trigger nausea, be sure to break them up into smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
- Avoid Dehydration - Being dehydrated can worsen already existing nausea. So be sure to drink plenty of water and again drink small amounts regularly instead of large glasses in one sitting to avoid filling the stomach too much and triggering nausea.
- Avoid Trigger Foods - Any food that has a particularly strong smell can trigger nausea. This includes boiled eggs, fish and spicy foods. Foods that are acidic or produce gas (including dairy-based and wheat-based products) can also trigger nausea.
- Suck on Citrus Foods - Sucking on sour flavoured foods such as lemons, limes or oranges, can help curb nausea.
- Wait to Brush - It is best to wait a while after eating to brush your teeth. Doing it immediately after eating can trigger the gag reflex and can cause instant nausea or vomiting for some people.
- Protein Snacks - Snacking regularly on high protein foods such as nuts, seeds, chicken, or yoghurt, can offer longer-lasting relief from nausea than foods that are high in carbohydrates or fats, according to a study.
What Supplements Can Help With Morning Sickness?
Sometimes dietary and lifestyle modifications on their own won’t be enough to help alleviate morning sickness symptoms. If that is the case for you, then the following supplements might be able to help.
Ginger capsules have been proven to be safe for use during pregnancy and can effectively alleviate nausea within a few days of treatment. It is one of the top supplements to try when experiencing nausea in pregnancy, but be sure to buy supplements that are 100% ginger only, and that is not mixed with other substances that might harm your baby.
Vitamin B6 has been shown to be effective in alleviating morning sickness nausea, and studies have not found any harm to the growing baby from taking it. Doses of 10mg to 25mg three times a day were documented to be useful during pregnancy.
Whatever supplements you opt for to help bring morning sickness relief, ensure always to choose one with high bioavailability (meaning it is easier to absorb and you get the dose on the packet) and one that includes good quality ingredients. Bioavailable supplements are also gentler on your stomach, which is important as you navigate this stomach sensitive time. Steer clear of supplements with fillers, binders, artificial colours and GMO ingredients, as not only are these not necessary and in some instances harmful, these ingredients may also indicate the supplement is not bioavailable and is of poor quality.
(Essential reading: Bioavailability. What's the Big Deal?)
Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements during pregnancy, especially if you have a chronic condition or take other medications that may contraindicate. And if none of these measures provides relief, it is time to contact your doctor or midwife to discuss other options they may prescribe that may prove beneficial.
Key Points About Morning Sickness
Morning sickness is very common, especially in the early stages of pregnancy. For most, this stops entirely by the 14th week of pregnancy. Even though morning sickness cannot be cured, some diet and lifestyle measures can help, and if these do not, several supplements may offer relief. Remember that there is a big difference between morning sickness and extreme morning sickness, such as hyperemesis gravidarum, with the latter sometimes requiring hospitalisation. If you have any concerns and are not sure which type of morning sickness you have, it is always best to consult your doctor or midwife.