Your Morning Sickness Survival Guide
Morning sickness sucks and why does it last all day long? Our survival guide will help you manage this evil pregnancy condition
Reading Time: 6 min read
There are some names that are simply misleading. Like a ‘tablespoon’ – two separate entities brought together into one object. Or a ‘tea towel’ – what’s a drying implement got to do with a delicious warm cuppa?
Another excellent example: ‘morning sickness’. Which you might imagine means you’ll throw up your breakfast every day, but otherwise be ok.
What is morning sickness?
Morning sickness is a name given to a range of pretty unpleasant pregnancy symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and tiredness. It’s very common and affects 3 out of 4 pregnant women.
Although it’s called morning sickness, you can experience these symptoms at any time of the day – or all day.
Morning sickness normally happens in early pregnancy, especially in the first trimester from about 8 weeks. For 9 out of 10 women, morning sickness will disappear by the end of the first trimester (so by weeks 12-14).
For some women, it can last for most of the pregnancy.
Although unpleasant, morning sickness isn’t normally something to worry about. If you can keep some food down and drink plenty of fluids, baby will be fine.
There is a very severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum. We’ll delve into that later or jump to it now.
What are the symptoms of morning sickness?
As well as a misleading time-driven name, ‘sickness’ is a bit vague as a symptom too. You could be experiencing morning sickness if you:
- Feel nauseous.
- Dry retch (which is like vomiting, but you don’t throw anything up).
- Have a food smell or sight sensitivity, which means certain smells or sights of some foods make you feel sick.
You might occasionally feel a bit queasy. Or you might feel queasy and sick almost constantly but never vomit.
You might vomit sometimes. Or you might vomit a lot and feel better afterwards.
What causes morning sickness?
We can put a man on the moon, but we haven’t yet figured out the intricacies of our bodies. This includes what causes morning sickness.
Experts think that high levels of hormones in the first 3 months of pregnancy (which help to maintain the pregnancy) can cause it. But it can also be caused by a combination of things like:
- Changes in your blood pressure, especially lowered blood pressure.
- Changes in the way your body metabolises carbohydrates.
- The physical and chemical changes that pregnancy triggers.
You might be more likely to experience morning sickness if:
- You’re hungry.
- You’re stressed or anxious.
- You smell a strong odour, especially a food-related one.
Are some women more prone to morning sickness?
Morning sickness doesn’t discriminate – it can happen to any woman. But you could be more likely to develop morning sickness if:
- This is your first pregnancy.
- You had morning sickness in a previous pregnancy.
- Your unborn baby is a girl.
- You have a family history of morning sickness.
- You suffer from travel or motion sickness.
- You get nauseous when using contraceptive pills.
- You’re obese (classified as a BMI of 30 or higher).
- You’re expecting twins or triplets.
How to treat and manage morning sickness
Thankfully, there is a wide range of things you can do to manage morning sickness.
- Opt for a bland, protein-rich diet.
- Eat 5-6 small meals regularly throughout the day.
- Have something to eat before getting out of bed in the morning. Toast or a cracker is ideal.
- Try a light snack high in protein and complex carbs before you go to bed. Think a banana muffin and glass of milk.
- Avoid fatty or spicy foods.
- Hunger can make your nausea worse so always keep a snack box with you. Salty snacks are a good choice, like crisps, crackers or pretzels.
- Carry a water bottle with you to help you stay well-hydrated.
- Try sucking on crushed iced if water won’t stay down.
- Drink icy cold fluids.
- Take small regular sips of water between meals.
- Soups, smoothies and shakes will keep you hydrated too.
Ginger’s long been known for its tummy-calming properties. So, sip a ginger tea, tuck into gingernuts or try ginger capsules (get these from a pharmacy).
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 is thought to help with morning sickness. You’ll find it in bananas, potatoes, watermelon and chickpeas. Chat to your lead maternity carer about whether vitamin B6 supplements could help you.
Fresh air and exercise
Fresh air has some serious restorative credentials. Go for a walk, turn on a fan and sleep with the window open. Open windows when you’re cooking and avoid cigarette smoke.
Staying active will help too. Try regular, gentle exercise like walking or swimming.
Rest and relaxation
It’s important to take care of yourself when you’re suffering with morning sickness. Sleep well and rest as you need during the day.
Let go of trying to maintain the same activity levels you enjoyed before pregnancy. Try meditation instead.
Good news: it’s time to crack out the maternity pants – those elasticated waistbands are going to be helpful right now.
Give acupuncture a go – try to find a pregnancy-friendly acupuncturist if possible. Or acupressure bracelets can help too.
Severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum)
Morning sickness is common. Very severe morning sickness, called hyperemesis gravidarum, is not. Made famous lately by the Duchess of Cambridge, hyperemesis gravidarum causes severe ongoing nausea and vomiting.
This means you’re unable to keep any fluids or food down, resulting in weight-loss and dehydration. Only 1 in every 100 pregnant women will suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. If you think you may be experiencing this, contact your GP or midwife straightaway.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, also contact them immediately:
- Very dark-coloured urine.
- Not weeing for more than 8 hours.
- Unable to keep food or fluids down for 24 hours.
- Feel severely weak, dizzy or faint when standing up.
- Tummy pain.
- High temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above.
- Vomiting blood.
- Pain when weeing or any blood in your wee.