One of the most commonly known symptoms of pregnancy is morning sickness. What causes nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, and how long does it last? In this guide, OBGYN Dr. Gleaton answers all of your questions.
By OBGYN and fertility expert Dr. Kenosha Gleaton
Pregnancy is a beautiful yet tiring process-- and along with the tender nipples, cramping, and fatigue, you’ll likely also go through a spell of morning sickness and nausea. In fact, 70-80% of pregnant women experience morning sickness and regardless of the name, it can attack at any time of the day, and last for weeks.
A change in hormones causes morning sickness
There’s no concrete answer as to what causes morning sickness or NVP (nausea and vomiting during pregnancy) but some theories implicate the increase in pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Others say that the combination of progesterone and estrogen could have a role in NVP. It's likely a combination of factors—and often genetics—contribute to the severity of symptoms.
What does morning sickness feel like and how long does it last?
Morning sickness can vary by pregnancy. Some women feel nauseous all day with spouts of vomiting, some get the occasional urge to vomit, and others feel queasy all day without throwing up.
Ready for some good news? Morning sickness doesn’t usually occur past the first trimester And although some women will have symptoms into the second and third trimesters, most cases only last for a few weeks (I know, I know—that still feels like eternity!).
Can morning sickness only occur during the morning?
How does NVP know the time? Does the vomiting just stop at noon? Although it’d be nice to have a schedule for morning sickness, it doesn’t abide by any rules and can occur throughout the day. Some women only feel queasy in the morning, some at night, and some with an empty stomach and between meals.
How to stop morning sickness
Morning sickness is one of the difficult parts of pregnancy that many women endure. Although you can actively manage symptoms, there’s no magic cure to NVP, and often pregnancy progression brings spontaneous improvement. And despite feelings of absolute misery, most cases of NVP are self-limited and ultimately harmless to both you and your unborn baby. With that being said, there are times when you should contact your doctor, including inability to eat or drink for 24 hours, severe weakness, and drastic weight loss greater than ten pounds.
To help manage NVP, you should:
- Eat frequent small meals or snacks throughout the day.
- Use ginger tea, supplements, chews, and candies which can help settle your stomach (try The Good Morning Tea, made with organic ginger and peppermint)
- Take a prenatal vitamin. ACOG states that prenatal vitamins can reduce the risk of severe NVP.
- Alter your meal times.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid smelly foods which can act as triggers, like boiled eggs, tuna, etc.
- Try the BRATT diet which contains bland, low fat, and easy to digest foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, and tea
Morning sickness foods to avoid
Avoid any foods that are extremely spicy, acidic, smelly, or gas producing including dairy. It's best to stick to bland boring foods. This lackluster diet may prove difficult, but is worth the sacrifice to control NVP.
If and when all else fails?
There are safe supplements and medications that can help treat NVP when dietary and lifestyle modifications are ineffective. Common over the counter supplements include ginger, unisom, peppermint, and vitamin B6. The Good Morning Tea combines organic peppermint and ginger to provide gentle relaxation of the GI tract and aid digestion. If these measures provide incomplete relief, it's best to contact your OBGYN provider for a discussion regarding prescription medications that may prove beneficial.
The bright side
Pregnancy is a beautiful process that often causes not-so-great side effects, most notably morning sickness! Fortunately, for the majority of people, morning sickness or NVP only lasts for a few weeks and resolves after the first three months of pregnancy. While it can’t necessarily be predicted, prevented, or cured, changing what and when you eat may help manage your symptoms. For additional information on smart dietary choices while eating for two, check out What to Eat When You’re Pregnant.