skip to main content
Main Site Navigation
Top of main content

What Is Morning Sickness?

Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that happens during early pregnancy (generally between 8 and 12 weeks), but it can occur at any time. Though 70% to 85% of women have morning sickness, only about 1% to 2% will have enough problems that it can threaten their health or the health of the pregnancy. This much more severe disorder is called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Morning sickness is more likely with a multiple pregnancy (twins or more).

What Causes Morning Sickness?

The cause is unknown, but factors that may be involved include hormones called human chorionic gonadotropin and estrogen. Other contributing factors are younger age of the mother, body weight (obesity), no previous completed pregnancies, first pregnancy, and history of morning sickness in prior pregnancies. Biological, psychological, and social factors may all play a role.

What Are the Symptoms of Morning Sickness?

Symptoms usually begin between the fourth and eighth week of pregnancy and last until 16 weeks or more. Most women vomit more often early in the day, but it can happen throughout the day. If this becomes severe, other symptoms can include severe nausea, weight loss, reduced urination, headaches, confusion, fainting, and jaundice. Dehydration is manifested by decreased need to urinate, increased pulse rate, and lower blood pressure.

How Is Morning Sickness Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of morning sickness is one that you can make yourself: If you don’t have any other reason for being sick and you are pregnant, you have morning sickness. The severe form (hyperemesis gravidarum) is diagnosed by your health care provider when severe nausea and vomiting lead to weight loss, dehydration, or disturbances in the body’s chemistry. To be sure that nothing else is causing these symptoms, the health care provider may do blood and urine tests. Ultrasonography may also be done.

How Is Morning Sickness Treated?

When symptoms aren’t too bad, eating dry foods such as crackers and small, frequent meals may be enough. Drinking more fluids may help increase fluid intake. (If you drink fizzy drinks such as seltzer or other sparkling water, pour it over ice and let it sit for a bit to let some of the fizz out.) Women with the severest form may need intravenous fluids and vitamins and hospitalization. Medicines to prevent nausea (antiemetics) are for women with severe and long-lasting vomiting.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing HG:

  • DO get treatment if your symptoms cause you to lose weight or become dehydrated.
  • DO eat small frequent meals.
  • DO have high-protein snacks.
  • DO have crackers, dry toast, or dry cereal when you first get up in the morning.
  • DON’T eat large or spicy meals or high-fat foods.
  • DON’T eat just before you go to bed or lie down.
  • DON’T take medicines (even over-the-counter) or try home remedies without asking your health care provider.

Contact the following sources:

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    Tel: (202) 638-5577
  • WebMD
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Copyright © 2017 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor

Not sure which type of care is right for you?

We can help.