Morning sickness is nausea that occurs during pregnancy. Morning sickness is a misnomer, however, since it can strike at any time of the day or night.
Morning sickness affects a large proportion of pregnant women. Morning sickness is most common during the first trimester, but for some women morning sickness lingers throughout pregnancy. Treatment isn't usually needed for morning sickness — 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.
Morning sickness is characterized by nausea with or without vomiting. Morning sickness is most common during the first trimester, sometimes beginning as early as two weeks after conception.
When to see a doctor
What causes morning sickness isn't entirely 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.
Morning sickness can affect anyone who's pregnant. You might be more likely to experience morning sickness if:
Typical cases of morning sickness don't pose risks 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).
Preparing for your appointment
Morning sickness can usually be addressed during routine prenatal appointments.
What you can do
Some basic questions to ask about morning sickness include:
Don't hesitate to ask follow-up questions as they occur to you during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Morning sickness is typically diagnosed based on your signs and symptoms. If your pregnancy care provider suspects hyperemesis gravidarum, you may need various urine and blood tests. Your pregnancy care provider may also do an ultrasound to confirm the number of fetuses and detect any underlying conditions that may be contributing to the nausea.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment isn't necessary for most cases of morning sickness. If morning sickness is severe, however, your pregnancy care provider may prescribe vitamin B-6 supplements and possibly anti-nausea medications.
If you have severe morning sickness, your doctor might talk to you about medication to treat it. The combination of doxylamine and pyridoxine (Diclegis) has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating nausea in pregnancy. Drowsiness can occur with this medicine, so it's important to avoid activities that require mental alertness, such as driving, when taking it.
If you have hyperemesis gravidarum, you may need to be treated with intravenous (IV) fluids and anti-nausea medications in the hospital.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To help relieve morning sickness:
Various alternative remedies have been suggested for morning sickness, including:
Check with your pregnancy care provider before using any herbal remedies or alternative treatments to relieve morning sickness.
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.
Last Updated: 2011-10-04
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