Morning sickness

Feeling queasy is common in early pregnancy. Here's what we know about morning sickness and some tips to cope with the symptoms.

If you're feeling the nausea of morning sickness, you are not alone. Around half to two-thirds of all pregnant women will experience morning sickness to some degree, particularly in the first trimester.

What causes morning sickness?

The exact cause of morning sickness is unknown, but increases in various hormones may be responsible. Symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting. Morning sickness is typically worse early in the day, hence its name, but it can occur anytime during the day or night. 

For most women, morning sickness begins around the fourth week of pregnancy and disappears by the 12th to 14th week. However, one in five women endures morning sickness into their second trimester, and an unfortunate few experience nausea and vomiting for their whole pregnancy.

Does morning sickness affect the baby?

It is important to note that in most cases, morning sickness won’t harm you or your unborn baby. In most cases of morning sickness, no medical treatment is needed, but there are some things that may make a difference.

Tips to ease morning sickness:

  • Nibble on dry crackers or biscuits before getting out of bed in the morning
  • Eat small amounts, frequently (every 1–2 hours) – don’t let your stomach get too full or too empty
  • If you can't tolerate food, it's important to keep drinking fluids. Sip water or suck on ice cubes if drinking is a challenge
  • Wear motion sickness bands on your wrists: these are available from pharmacies and designed to press on acupuncture points for some relief
  • Some women find that ginger, a well-known natural nausea remedy may help with morning sickness. Ginger ale, dry ginger biscuits, ginger tea or root ginger grated into boiling water are some easy ways to use this spice  

If morning sickness is preventing you from eating your normal healthy balanced diet, don’t worry. Your body will provide for your baby first, so even if you only manage to eat small amounts, your baby should receive the nutrition they need.

What should you eat?

Make the food that you can eat count. Choose nutrient-rich fresh foods when possible and try to include protein, such as lean meat and legumes, especially if you can’t tolerate dairy foods at the moment. Low-fat foods may be better than full fat. Try low-fat yoghurt, cheese, ice-cream, milkshakes or custard.

Some women find that morning sickness doesn’t fade in the second trimester as expected.

If you’re still feeling nauseous, depending on the severity of the nausea, there may not be any cause for concern. If you are concerned and you begin to lose weight as a result, consult your doctor. Severe morning sickness that includes weight loss and dehydration will need medical attention.

Severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum)

About one in 1000 women are affected by severe morning sickness is known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). The symptoms of HG include repeated vomiting and being unable to keep anything down, weight loss and dehydration. Treatment usually involves hospitalisation, and the administering of intravenous liquids and nutrition. 

The possible complications of untreated hyperemesis gravidarum can be serious and include:

  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Extreme depression and anxiety
  • Malnourishment of the foetus
  • Excessive strain on vital organs, including the liver, heart, kidneys and brain.

If you are suffering from severe morning sickness it is very important to see your doctor or midwife as soon as possible.

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