Maybe you’ve already received a positive pregnancy test, or maybe you’ve been trying to conceive for a while and just have a gut feeling. Either way, you’re probably hyperaware of your body right now, and are probably wondering: When does morning sickness start? Could I really be pregnant?!
Morning sickness is one of the most common and troublesome signs of early pregnancy, and most everyone has heard mention of it. Still you probably have a lot of questions. We’ll cover all of the bases in this post, including:
What is Morning Sickness?
To put it plainly, morning sickness is nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
It is estimated that three out of four women suffer from these symptoms that are related to the body’s reaction to the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
Other factors that contribute to morning sickness are:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Liver health
- And blood-sugar levels
We talk much more about the different theories of morning sickness in my bestselling, five-star on Amazon book called The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth.
When Does Morning Sickness Start?
If you’re newly pregnant, the first question you might ask yourself is when does morning sickness start?
Morning sickness is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy and typically occurs during the first trimester when hCG levels spike.
For many expectant moms, morning sickness starts somewhere between the 6th and 9th week. (source)
- For most women, morning sickness is a short-lived event, often ending around the 12th to 16th week of pregnancy.
- In some cases, symptoms can last through the 20th week, or even through the entire pregnancy.
Hang on for the ride—morning sickness may greatly disrupt your daily activities and mood, but it isn’t harmful to the baby.
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What Are the Symptoms of Morning Sickness in Early Pregnancy?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, morning sickness can be described as mild or severe:
- Mild is the best-case scenario, with nausea rearing its head throughout the day or night, or maybe even just a few times a week.
- Severe nausea, unfortunately, may last for several hours a day with vomiting occurring more frequently.
It just doesn’t seem fair sometimes—you’re pregnant and excited, yet gagging, nauseous, fatigued, dizzy, constipated, and/or very sensitive to smell. All of these symptoms are, for the most part, par for the course with pregnancy, however you might want to consider calling your doctor or midwife if you experience any of the following severe symptoms of morning sickness:
- You haven’t been able to eat, drink, or keep anything down for 24 hours
- You’re urinating less or your urine is dark in color
- You see blood in your vomit
- You feel increasingly weak and faint
- Your mouth, eyes, and skin are excessively dry
Your doctor or midwife will want to see you and possibly prescribe medication or administer IV fluids to minimize symptoms and prevent dehydration.
How to Ease Symptoms of Morning Sickness
Thankfully, there are lots of things you can do to help (hopefully??) lessen the effects of morning sickness.
We’ve got a whole post on natural morning sickness remedies for you. Here’s a quick overview:
- Eat small amounts of food throughout the day, before you feel hungry. This keeps your blood sugar from dropping too low, which is oftentimes a trigger for nausea and vomiting.
- Don’t take your prenatal supplements on an empty stomach. In fact, consider taking them after dinner when your stomach is full and less susceptible to queasiness. Food-based ones are easier on the stomach, too.
- Have a snack in bed before you get up for the day. Try a few salty crackers, a protein bar, or a handful of granola. This is just to bring your blood sugar levels up and put something in your stomach.
- Incorporate high-protein foods and complex carbohydrates into your pregnancy diet. Start with the complex carb, then add protein 20 minutes later.
- Go for bubbly beverages. Fizzy beverages like seltzer or ginger ale may help settle the belly. Kombucha is another option, which is safe for most moms.
- Have a bedtime snack (or even a middle-of-the-night snack, if you wake up hungry). Night waking may be your body telling you that your blood sugar is taking a dip, so listen closely to what you body is telling you!
- Drink to a healthy thirst. It’s crucial to avoid dehydration, especially if you have been vomiting. If you’re having a hard time keeping water down, try adding a splash or lemon or some ice—some women find these things make water more tolerable. Experiment, and stick to whatever works for you. Aim for about 10 cups of water each day, but remember the most important thing is you drink what you can. If you are feeling dehydrated, this DIY electrolyte solution is good.
- Eat foods high in fiber. Constipation, also a common complaint of pregnancy, can increase the symptoms of morning sickness. To avoid constipation, drink at least 10 cups of water a day and incorporate as many high-fiber foods into your diet as you can. Try fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
- Avoid spicy food. A bland diet is often the best way to play it safe when struggling with nausea. Spicy food may contribute to heartburn—also a common complaint in pregnancy—which can, in turn, cause a bout of nausea.
- Avoid greasy food. Greasy food is difficult to digest, and since digestion already tends to slow down during pregnancy, this may contribute to nausea.
- Take vitamin B6. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends this over-the-counter vitamin as a helpful remedy for improving symptoms of nausea, but note it may not help with vomiting. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplementation during pregnancy to see what dosage is right for you, but your doctor of midwife is likely to recommend somewhere between 10-25 milligrams every 8 hours.
Natural Ways to Prevent Morning Sickness
While the above may help quell symptoms of morning sickness, you may be curious if you can prevent morning sickness altogether.
The answer is not a simple one. Researchers believe morning sickness may be, in part, hereditary—something that’s definitely out of your control. Other research suggests stress and fatigue can exacerbate morning sickness—external factors you have a little more control over.
When you’re feeling so low, these natural ways to prevent morning sickness are definitely worth a shot!
- Take ginger. Several studies tout ginger’s ability to reduce nausea and vomiting. It comes in many forms; ginger chews, teas, encapsulated-powder, and, of course, ginger ale.
- Try moderate exercise. Studies suggest moving your body helps process and balance the hormone’s in your body. Walking and yoga are great options. Try these gentle exercises for pregnant women.
- Avoid strong odors. There are fascinating studies that suggest offending aromas smell twice as strong to pregnant women.
- Find ways to de-stress. Practice stress-relieving activities you enjoy. Some ideas: prenatal yoga, mediation, visualization, forest bathing, and deep breathing.
- Consider acupuncture. Treatments have been shown to reduce the severity of the condition, as well as lessen the frequency in which it occurs. (source)
- Wear Sea-Bands: These little plastic bracelets apply continuous pressure to each wrist. Studies show that these simple, inexpensive bands relieve nausea and may even prevent it in the first place.
- Try peppermint. Few studies have been done on the efficacy of peppermint oil, but there is enough anecdotal evidence—it’s worth a try. (source) You can also put sugar-free peppermint candies or gum on your list.
- Eat grapefruit. It sounds counterintuitive, but grapefruit is known to neutralize stomach acid, which may help stave off morning sickness. (source)
- Chew gum. Some moms find chewing a piece of gum immediately after a meal takes away some of the nausea. Don’t chew for more than 10 minutes, as too much chewing could cause heartburn.
- Eat sour foods. Sour foods stimulate bile flow and digestion, which can help with morning sickness. Examples include safe bitters, lemons, and raw apple cider vinegar.
- Boost magnesium stores. Magnesium deficiency can cause a host of issues, including metabolic problems like constipation. There is some evidence it can exacerbate morning sickness, too. Eat plenty of high-magnesium foods like leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
Have a look at our natural morning sickness remedies post for more details and ideas.
Can You Have Morning Sickness at Night?
If you or anyone you know has ever experienced morning sickness, you know that its name is quite unjust! Although this queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach is often present upon waking, morning sickness can strike at any point in the day—morning, afternoon, or night.
And morning sickness can be particularly intrusive when it strikes at night, because it can interfere with your ability to sleep. Since researchers believe that exhaustion contributes to morning sickness, it’s a vicious cycle.
In addition to the suggestions listed above, the following tips might help you get through the night with more sleep and less nausea:
- Stay hydrated: Sip water throughout the evening and keep a glass of water at your bedside.
- Have a healthy (early) dinner: What you eat for dinner can have a major effect on what you experience at night. Fried food and food high is sugar and fat content are difficult to digest and contribute to bloating, heartburn, and acid reflux—all things that trigger night-time nausea.
- Clear the air: Throw the windows open, turn on the fan, or crank the A/C. Whether it be for a cool breeze to distract you from the queasiness or an attempt to move an offending kitchen aroma, this tip is worth a shot.
- Try meditation: As noted above, there is a direct correlation between stress and morning sickness. Deep breathing exercises or a quiet moment to unwind from the tumultuous activities of the day will lower your stress level. If you start to feel the tell-tale wave of sickness wash over you, tune into your breathing and try to relax your body as much as possible.
- Have a midnight snack: Keep a high-protein snack on your nightstand. Have a few bites each time you wake up throughout the night. Since you’re more susceptible to nausea on an empty stomach, this may help prevent morning sickness from creeping in.
Can You Still Be Pregnant and NOT Experience Morning Sickness?
As mentioned above, the degree to which a woman experiences morning sickness can vary from person to person. A lucky few never have any morning sickness at all. The degree or length that a woman experiences morning sickness is no indicator of a healthy pregnancy or baby.
Rest assured, “Nearly 30 percent of pregnant women completely skip out on any nausea,” says Michele Hakakha, M.D., FACOG, an ob-gyn in Beverly Hills and author of Expecting 411. “And that’s definitely something to be happy about.”
Silver Lining of Morning Sickness
Feeling queasy for weeks on end is brutal, but research suggests there may be an upside to this unfortunate early symptom of pregnancy. In one study, both nausea alone and nausea with vomiting were linked to a significantly reduced risk of miscarriage during the first eight weeks of pregnancy.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, tracked nearly 800 women through conception and early pregnancy. In total, 188 pregnancies ended with miscarriage, but women who has reported morning sickness were less likely to have had a miscarriage. Women with nausea alone had a 50 percent lower risk of miscarriage; women with nausea and vomiting had a 75 percent lower risk.
Some experts attribute this to healthy hcG levels, while others say morning sickness curbs lifestyle factors that could increase the risk of miscarriage.
“Symptoms may be part of an evolutionary advantage to change one’s dietary intake, increase consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods, or avert intake of potentially teratogenic substances.” (source)
Do You Get Morning Sickness With a Boy or Girl?
You may have heard the rumor that women are more likely to experience morning sickness if they are carrying a girl. ?And there is some hard data to back it up: Scientists who study this phenomenon say that hormones produced during a female pregnancy are more likely to make mama nauseous.
That said, I know plenty of mamas who experienced severe morning sickness with boys and other mamas who had no morning sickness with their girls. Looks like the jury is still out, so you might want to hold off on buying anything too gender-specific until you know for sure!
Feeling Awful? You Got This!
Combine a bout of nausea with headaches in pregnancy, and it’s enough to make you want to stay in a dark room all day. Be kind to yourself, and take that time for yourself if you need it. Ask others for help, and know that you are in good company—at this very moment, thousands of women worldwide are also struggling with many of the same symptoms. Take it day-by-day, or maybe even hour-by-hour. This too shall pass, and before you know it, you’ll have a baby in your arms.
How About You?
Did you experience morning sickness? When did it set in?