Morning sickness: When it starts, why it happens and how to deal with it

You’re pregnant. Such joy! Except you can’t move for nausea. Parenting editor Sally J Hall finds the answers to your frequently asked questions about this common pregnancy condition.

4 min read

Morning sickness: When it starts, why it happens and how to deal with it

You’re pregnant. Such joy! Except you can’t move for nausea. Parenting editor Sally J Hall finds the answers to your frequently asked questions about this common pregnancy condition.

4 min read

What is morning sickness?

If you’re feeling nauseous and vomiting during pregnancy, you’re probably experiencing the not-so-fun part of being pregnant—morning sickness! Some women develop nausea during part or all of their pregnancy, and sadly it’s not just relegated to the morning either. Instead, some women find they have nausea for large parts of the day, leaving them feeling tired and disrupting your daily routine.

What are the symptoms of morning sickness?

The signs and symptoms of pregnancy sickness differ from one woman to another but generally they will experience:

  • A feeling of nausea or queasiness like sea sickness – this can be so strong as to make you throw up.

  • A sensitivity to some smells and tastes.

  • Feeling sick yet feeling hungry at the same time.

  • Feeling sick after eating.

  • Feeling nauseous in the morning but having periods of nausea at any time in the day.

When does morning sickness start?

Like many pregnancy conditions, morning sickness affects different women in different ways. Some may find that morning sickness is the first sign and symptom of pregnancy, mostly around the sixth week of pregnancy – this is around two weeks after you have missed your period.

Others may not experience it until they are later into the first trimester. Some lucky women never have morning sickness at all. For some others, they may find that they have more severe and long-lasting symptoms. Usually, the worst of the symptoms will be between weeks 10 and 16.

How long does morning sickness last and when does it end?

For most women, the symptoms of morning sickness ease by the time they reach weeks 16 to 20, around the time you should feel your first kick. So, as you enter your second trimester of pregnancy you should start to feel a whole lot better.

In fact, the second trimester is often better; your uterus moves upwards in the abdomen, meaning it’s not constantly pressing on your bladder, and you’ll have more energy, as well as – hopefully – feeling less nauseous.

Why do some women get morning sickness?

We are not entirely sure why some women get morning sickness and others don’t. The causes are due to several strong hormones flooding your body at the same time.

  • Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the pregnancy hormone, is strongest when the sickness is at its worst; it is even higher if you are expecting twins or more.

  • Your oestrogen and progesterone levels rise, which cause the digestive muscles to become less efficient.

  • Your increased sense of smell and taste, particularly to some foods, may cause nausea; this may also give you a strange taste in your mouth, making it worse.

  • You may produce excess saliva, which makes you feel sick.

  • Stress and tiredness can make morning sickness worse.

  • Genetics may play a part, so if your mum had bad morning sickness, you may too.

Is morning sickness dangerous?

For most women, morning sickness is not dangerous. You may be eating a little less than usual – and perhaps eating bland foods – but this should not affect your baby. Even weight loss in the first trimester is not in itself a worrying sign. However, being sick a lot can lead to dehydration, so try to drink plenty of water and if your urine is very dark, speak to your midwife or GP as this is a sign you are low in fluids.

Some women experience a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, a more serious condition. Speak to your midwife if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Very dark urine.

  • You have not passed urine in the last eight hours.

  • You are vomiting blood.

  • You have not been able to keep food down for over 24 hours.

  • You have pains in your tummy.

  • You have a temperature or fever.

  • You feel dizzy when you stand up.

What treatments are available for morning sickness?

While there is little that can be done for you medically if you have morning sickness, you can use some self-help techniques to help yourself to feel a little better.

  • Get plenty of rest and before you get up in the morning, try to nibble a ginger biscuit or a piece of dry toast.

  • Eat small, regular meals high in carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta) to regulate your blood sugar and avoid foods that make you feel worse.

  • Make sure you continue to stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water and perhaps ginger ale or ginger tea, as ginger can help control nausea.

  • You can also buy acupressure wrist bands designed for sea sickness that press on points in your wrist that can help you feel less sick.

  • Try to take your mind off the sensation by learning how to bond with your child while it’s in the womb.

You can find out more about morning sickness on the NHS website.

Was this helpful?