Morning sickness

Morning sickness (also called nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, or NVP) is feeling sick to your stomach (also called nausea) and vomiting that happens in the first few months of pregnancy. Even though it's called morning sickness, it can last all day and happen any time of day.

At least 7 in 10 women have morning sickness during the first trimester (first 3 months or about 12 weeks of pregnancy). It usually starts at about 6 weeks of pregnancy and is at its worst at about 9 weeks. Most women start to feel better in their second trimester. But some may have morning sickness throughout pregnancy. If you have morning sickness, tell your provider.

Mild morning sickness doesn’t harm you or your baby. But if morning sickness becomes severe (called hyperemesis gravidarum), it can lead to weight loss and dehydration (not having enough water in your body). These problems can be harmful during pregnancy. If you have severe morning sickness, you may need to stay in the hospital for treatment. 

What causes morning sickness?  

No one knows for sure what causes morning sickness. An increase in pregnancy hormones, like human chorionic gonadotropin (also called HCG), or low blood sugar early in pregnancy may cause morning sickness. Being stressed or overly tired, eating certain foods and traveling (if you’re likely to have motion sickness) may make the morning sickness worse.

What can you do relieve or prevent morning sickness?  

Here are some things you can do to help you feel better and may even prevent morning sickness:

  • Keep snacks by your bed. Eat a few crackers before you get up in the morning to help settle your stomach. 
  • Eat five or six small meals each day instead of three larger meals. 
  • Eat foods that are low in fat and easy to digest, like cereal, rice and bananas. Don’t eat spicy or fatty foods.
  • Eat healthy snacks between meals. This helps keep your stomach from being empty and helps prevent feeling sick to your stomach. Try snacks that are high in protein, like milk or yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. 
  • Avoid smells that upset your stomach. 
  • Take your prenatal vitamin at night or with a snack. Sometimes vitamins can upset your stomach.  

Talk to your health care provider before trying any of these methods to relieve or prevent morning sickness:

  • Acupressure wristbands. Wearing these wristbands may help with morning sickness and other kinds of nausea. You can buy them at most drug stores. 
  • Acupuncture. This treatment involves inserting hair-thin needles into your skin. If you’re thinking about acupuncture to help with morning sickness, tell your provider and find an acupuncturist who is trained to work with pregnant women.
  • Ginger. Ginger ale, tea or candies may help relieve morning sickness.

When should you call your health care provider about morning sickness?

For most women, morning sickness is mild and goes away over time. But call your health care provider if:

  • Your morning sickness continues into your 4th month of pregnancy.
  • You lose more than 2 pounds.
  • Your vomit is brown in color or has blood in it. Call your provider right away in these cases.
  • You vomit more than 3 times a day and can’t keep food or fluids down.
  • Your heart beats faster than usual.
  • You’re tired or confused.
  • You’re making much less urine than usual, or no urine at all.

Your provider may prescribe a medicine to help relieve your nausea. It comes as a tablet that you take every day as long as you have symptoms.

What is severe morning sickness?

About 2 in 100 women may have a severe kind morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum, which means severe vomiting during pregnancy. Women with this condition can’t keep any food or fluid in their stomach. They may lose weight or become dehydrated. This condition can begin early in pregnancy and last throughout pregnancy.

You may be more likely than other women to have severe morning sickness if you:

 Signs of severe morning sickness include:

  • Vomiting more than 3 to 4 times a day
  • Vomiting that makes you dizzy, lightheaded or dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include feeling thirsty, having a dry mouth, having a fast heart beat or making little to no urine.
  • Losing more than 10 pounds in pregnancy

If you have severe morning sickness, you may need treatment in a hospital with intravenous fluids. These are fluids that are given through a needle into a vein.

For more information

morningsicknessusa.com

Last reviewed July 2013

Most common questions

How do you know you're pregnant?

Knowing the signs of pregnancy can help you tell if you’re pregnant. Here are some signs that you might be pregnant:

If you have any of these pregnancy signs and think you may be pregnant, go to your health care provider. The sooner you know you're pregnant, the sooner you can begin prenatal checkups and start taking good care of yourself and your growing baby.

Is my baby moving enough?

You'll start feeling your baby's kicks at around the 28th week of pregnancy. By this time, your baby's movements are usually well established and some health care providers recommend keeping track of these movements.

  • Track kick counts at about the same time each day when your baby is active.
  • Track kick counts shortly after you've eaten a meal (when your baby may be most active).
  • Sit or lay on your side, place your hands on your belly and monitor baby's movement.
  • Mark every movement down on a piece of paper. Don't count baby's hiccups.

Keep counting until you've felt 10 movements from baby. If baby doesn't move 10 times within 1 hour, try again later that day. Call your health provider if your baby's movement seems unusual or you've tried more than once that day and can't feel baby move 10 times or more during 1 hour.

When will I start feeling my baby move?

Popcorn popping. A little fish swimming. Bubbles. Butterflies. Tickles. These are common words used by women to describe their baby's first movements. Also known as "quickening," it's a reassuring sign that your baby is OK and growing. This milestone typically starts sometime between 18 to 25 weeks into pregnancy. For first-time moms, it may occur closer to 25 weeks, and for second- or third-time moms, it may happen much sooner.
At first it may be difficult to tell the difference between gas and your baby moving. You might not feel movement as early as you are expecting to feel it, but you'll notice a pattern soon. You'll start to learn when the baby is most active and what seems to get her moving.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).