Overview

Morning sickness is nausea that occurs during pregnancy. The name is a misnomer, however, since morning sickness can strike at any time of the day or night.

Morning sickness affects a large proportion of pregnant women. It is most common during the first trimester, but for some women morning sickness lingers throughout pregnancy. Treatment isn't usually needed — although various home remedies, such as snacking throughout the day and sipping ginger ale, often help relieve nausea.

Rarely, morning sickness is so severe that it's classified as hyperemesis gravidarum. This type of morning sickness may require hospitalization and treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids and medications.

Symptoms

Morning sickness is characterized by nausea with or without vomiting. It is most common during the first trimester, sometimes beginning as early as two weeks after conception.

When to see a doctor

Contact your pregnancy care provider if:

  • The nausea or vomiting is severe
  • You pass only a small amount of urine or it's dark in color
  • You can't keep down liquids
  • You feel dizzy or faint when you stand up
  • Your heart races
  • You vomit blood

Causes

What causes morning sickness isn't clear, but the hormonal changes of pregnancy are thought to play a role. Rarely, severe or persistent nausea or vomiting may be caused by a medical condition unrelated to pregnancy — such as thyroid or liver disease.

Risk factors

Morning sickness can affect anyone who's pregnant, but it might be more likely if:

  • You experienced nausea or vomiting from motion sickness, migraines, certain smells or tastes, or exposure to estrogen (in birth control pills, for example) before pregnancy
  • You experienced morning sickness during a previous pregnancy
  • You're pregnant with twins or other multiples

You might be more likely to experience hyperemesis gravidarum if:

  • You're pregnant with a girl
  • You have a family history of hyperemesis gravidarum
  • You experienced hyperemesis gravidarum during a previous pregnancy

Complications

Usually, morning sickness doesn't cause complications for mother or baby.

However, if you're underweight before pregnancy and morning sickness prevents you from gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy, your baby may be born underweight. Rarely, frequent vomiting may lead to tears in the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach (esophagus).

Prevention

There's no proven way to prevent morning sickness. Before conception, however, it may help to take prenatal vitamins. Several older studies suggest that women who take multivitamins at the time of conception and during early pregnancy are less likely to experience severe morning sickness. The folic acid in prenatal vitamins also helps prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

Sept. 18, 2014
References
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