You’re cruising right along through your early pregnancy, still riding high from two pink lines and maybe even an ultrasound with a strong heartbeat.
Then it hits you like a ton of bricks — morning sickness. You feel like you’re on a swaying boat while you drive to work, sit through meetings, carry your other kids to bed. Will it ever end?
The good news: It will most likely end — and relatively soon. Here’s what to expect.
Morning sickness typically lasts from weeks 6 through 12, with the most intense peak between 8 and 10 weeks.
According to a frequently cited 2000 study, half of all women still experience some nausea at week 14, or right around the time they enter the second trimester. This same study found that 90 percent of women have resolved morning sickness by 22 weeks.
While those weeks can seem brutally long, there can be strange comfort in the fact that it means hormones are doing their work, and baby is thriving.
In fact, a
However, it should be noted this was a correlational study and therefore can’t suggest a cause and effect. What that means is that the converse hasn’t been proven true: A lack of symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean a higher chance of miscarriage.
The same study also showed that around 80 percent of these women experienced nausea and/or vomiting during the first trimester. So you’re not alone, to put it mildly.
If you’re in the middle of this, you can probably attest to the fact that morning sickness definitely doesn’t just happen in the morning. Some people are sick all day, while others struggle in the afternoon or evening.
The term morning sickness comes from the fact that you might wake up queasier than usual after going the whole night without eating. But just 1.8 percent of pregnant women have sickness only in the morning, according to this study from 2000.
Some medical professionals have started to refer to the group of symptoms as NVP, or nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
If you’ve found yourself in the unfortunate group of people who have nausea all day, you’re not alone — and again, symptoms should let up as the first trimester concludes.
If you have morning sickness further into your pregnancy than the typical time period, or if you have severe vomiting, contact your doctor.
A condition called hyperemesis gravidarum occurs in .5 to 2 percent of pregnancies. It involves severe and persistent vomiting that can lead to hospitalization for dehydration.
Women experiencing this condition my lose more than 5 percent of their body weight, and it’s the second most prevalent reason for hospital stays for pregnant women.
Most of these rare cases resolve before the 20-week mark, but 22 percent of them persist until the end of the pregnancy.
If you’ve had it once, you’re at higher risk for having it in future pregnancies as well. Other risk factors include:
- a family history of the condition
- being of younger age
- being pregnant for the first time
- carrying twins or higher-order multiples
- having higher body weight or obesity
While the cause isn’t completely clear, medical professionals believe morning sickness is a side effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), commonly referred to as the “pregnancy hormone.”
When the hormone is rising, as it does through a healthy first trimester, it’s thought to cause nausea and vomiting.
This theory is further supported by the idea that people who are having twins or higher-order multiples often experience more severe morning sickness.
It’s also possible that morning sickness (and food aversions) is our body’s way of protecting baby from potentially harmful bacteria in foods.
But notably, hCG levels peak toward the end of the first trimester and then level off — and even decline. This is yet another piece of evidence for the hCG theory, which may be responsible for those food aversions, too.
Some women will experience little to no morning sickness, while others are at an increased risk of a more severe experience.
Those who are pregnant with twins or multiple babies can have stronger symptoms, as their hormone levels are higher than a pregnancy with a single baby.
It can be helpful to ask female family members, such as your mother or sister, about their experiences with nausea and vomiting, as it can run in the family as well. Other risk factors include:
- a history of migraines or motion sickness
- a previous pregnancy with severe morning sickness
- being pregnant with a girl (but don’t use the severity of your morning sickness to determine the sex of your baby!)
Ironically, eating is one of the most recommended ways to help with morning sickness, regardless of what time of day you experience it. An empty stomach makes it worse, and even if you don’t feel like eating, small meals and snacks can ease nausea.
Some people find it helpful to eat bland foods, such as toast and crackers. Sip teas, juice, fluids, and anything that you can keep down to prevent dehydration. Don’t eat right before you lie down, and keep a small snack by your bedside to eat as soon as you wake up.
Preventing that empty stomach is the main goal, even if it means finding something small to eat hourly.
We’re guessing that you have pretty good intuition about when something isn’t right with your health or pregnancy. If you feel your nausea and vomiting are severe, contact your doctor. If you’re vomiting several times per day, talk to your doctor about nausea medication and solutions.
But take immediate action if you have additional flu-like symptoms, or if you’re experiencing signs of dehydration, which may require an emergency room visit. Call your doctor right away if you:
- lose more than 2 pounds
- have morning sickness into the fourth month of pregnancy
- experience vomiting that is brown or bloody
- aren’t producing urine
Remember that most of the time, morning sickness does get better. So hang in there — and bring on the second trimester!