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Home > Learn > Pregnancy > >What Does Pregnancy Nausea Feel Like?

What Does Pregnancy Nausea Feel Like?

Mar 07, 23 6 min

From bouts of vomiting to general queasiness, morning sickness symptoms can vary by pregnancy. Learn what pregnancy nausea feels like and how to treat it.

By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Pregnancy nausea is just one of many early signs of pregnancy and is experienced in a majority of pregnancies [1]. If you haven’t experienced pregnancy nausea before, it may be hard to discern whether or not you’re experiencing morning sickness or a general stomach bug. 

What Does Morning Sickness Feel Like?

Morning sickness can impact people very differently, but is generally described as feeling queasy or nauseous, which may be accompanied by sweating and increased saliva. Morning sickness can also cause someone to vomit, which typically only occurs once or twice a day, but may happen more frequently in severe cases of morning sickness [2]. While pregnancy nausea is often called “morning” sickness, it can occur at any time of the day. Some may only feel nauseous for a short period each day and never throw up, while others may feel nauseous for several hours and get sick repeatedly. Morning sickness should not be accompanied by any abdominal pain, fever, headache, or weight loss, so if you’re experiencing these additional symptoms or you’re unable to keep any food or liquids in your stomach, you should see a healthcare provider right away [2].

Pregnancy Nausea VS a Stomach Bug

How can you tell the difference between morning sickness and a stomach bug? Pay attention to your other symptoms for a better idea of what you’re experiencing. A stomach bug is likely accompanied by diarrhea, cramping, and potentially a fever. Food poisoning and stomach bugs aren’t likely to last much longer than a week [3]. On the other hand, morning sickness is likely to last for a few weeks and may be accompanied by other early pregnancy symptoms, such as a missed period, general moodiness, frequent urination, sore breasts, and potentially some spotting. The best way to determine whether or not you’re experiencing pregnancy symptoms or general illness is to take a pregnancy test and visit your healthcare provider. 

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Causes of Morning Sickness

Researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly why morning sickness happens, but most agree that changing hormones are likely to blame [1]. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is the hormone detected by pregnancy tests, and higher amounts of hCG have been linked to increased incidence of nausea and vomiting [1]. Other hormones that have been associated with feelings of nausea include estrogen, progesterone, and leptin [1]. We do know that up to 80% of pregnant people will experience some sort of morning sickness, so if you’re feeling nauseous, at least you know you’re not alone [1]! 

Other Causes of Nausea and Vomiting

There are many reasons one could experience nausea and vomiting outside of a stomach bug, food poisoning, or pregnancy. One of the most common causes is adverse medication reactions, which may happen a few times or regularly [4]. In these cases, alternative medications are usually prescribed. Nausea and vomiting may also be caused by structural issues in the gastrointestinal tract, intracranial pressure, motility disorders, ulcers, conditions impacting the thyroid or gallbladder, and more [2,4]. If you’re experiencing any concerning symptoms, you should see a healthcare provider. 

When to See a Doctor

It might be unsettling to feel nauseous or vomit during pregnancy, but most cases of morning sickness don’t harm the fetus at all [2]. A severe form of morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum occurs in up to 3% of pregnancies and does require medical supervision, so if your nausea and vomiting are causing you concern, you should definitely speak with a healthcare provider [2]. If you haven’t confirmed your pregnancy yet, you should take a pregnancy test right away, see a healthcare provider for confirmation, and begin taking a prenatal vitamin if you aren’t already. Read more about when to start taking prenatal vitamins. 

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Treatment and Prevention

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to stop morning sickness from happening, but there are ways to manage it. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Add in ginger and vitamin B6 to your diet. Research shows that both ginger and vitamin B6 may help with morning sickness [1]. These ingredients can be found together or separately in nausea relief teas, ginger candies, nausea relief gummies, and more. 

  • Stay hydrated. It’s important to stay hydrated during pregnancy and to replenish any lost fluids from morning sickness. Be sure to drink plenty of water and try out pregnancy safe electrolyte drinks to support electrolyte balance. 

  • Avoid smelly and spicy foods. These can often make nausea worse, so stick to bland floods and the BRATT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, and tea) until your morning sickness is resolved. 

  • Eat when it’s convenient for you. Ditch your usual meal times and find what works for you. Many find that eating small meals throughout the day is helpful for combating morning sickness, rather than eating three large meals.

  • Consult your healthcare provider. Antiemetic drugs are medications that may prevent vomiting and are prescribed by a physician when other treatments aren’t helping. 

Key Takeaways

  • Morning sickness is seen in up to 80% of pregnant people.

  • Pregnancy nausea may feel like random waves of nausea and queasiness accompanied by increased saliva or may involve vomiting multiple times a day with prolonged feelings of nausea. Morning sickness can feel different from person to person. 

  • An illness or food poisoning is likely to be accompanied by a fever, diarrhea, and/or cramping and is likely to only last a few days. 

  • Pregnancy nausea is more likely to occur with other pregnancy symptoms such as a missed period, moodiness, and sore breasts.

  • You should see a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing any pain, fever, headache, weight loss, or signs of dehydration. 

  • It’s not possible to prevent morning sickness, but eating bland foods, consuming ginger and vitamin B6, and staying hydrated may help combat pregnancy nausea. 

 

References:
  1. Lee NM, Saha S. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2011;40(2):309-vii. doi:10.1016/j.gtc.2011.03.009
  2. Morning sickness: Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. ACOG. Published May 2020. Accessed February 23, 2023. URL
  3. Symptoms & Causes of Food Poisoning. National Institutes of Health. Last reviewed June 2019. Accessed February 23, 2023. URL
  4. Maule WF. Nausea and Vomiting. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 84. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK410/
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