Most people would agree that morning sickness would have to be one of the most unpleasant aspects of pregnancy.    Around 80 to 90% of women will experience some degree of morning sickneduring their pregnancy.

The term “morning sickness” is well known, but is rather misleading because it can occur any time of the day or night.   For some women the symptoms will occur in the morning and ease up during the day, however it can occur later in the day, or for some unlucky women it may be continuous.  The condition is sometimes now referred to as “nausea and vomiting during pregnancy” (NVP) to acknowledge that it isn’t just a morning problem.

Morning sickness is generally at its worst in the first few months of pregnancy.  It may start a few weeks into the pregnancy, increase in intensity and should usually settle about three to four months in to the pregnancy.  It is possible that you may experience periods of morning sickness on and off during the pregnancy.

Some women will experience nausea only or may have nausea and vomiting.  The exact cause of morning sickness is not clear, but most likely related to the hormonal changes your body experiences during pregnancy.

There are some situations that increase your likelihood of experiencing morning sickness:

  • If you have experienced it in a previous pregnancy
  • If you are carrying twins, triplets or “more”
  • You have a history of experiencing travel sickness
  • There is a family history of experiencing morning sickness

There are various theories that the severity of morning sickness indicates whether you are carrying a boy or girl.  There have been no definitive studies that prove this one way or the other, and there are conflicting theories, so don’t base your baby shopping, room decorating and name selection on this!  You are probably safest to wait until your sonogram results before throwing a gender reveal party.

Will morning sickness put my baby at risk?

People experiencing mild to moderate morning sickness will be okay.  As long as you can manage reasonable amounts of food and drink during this period, your baby should be fine.  However, if the nausea is serious enough to interfere with your ability to keep significant food down, or keep hydrated, then it is advisable to see your healthcare professional.

At any stage if you are concerned about your levels of morning sickness, you should discuss it with your doctor to find out if what you are experiencing is normal and acceptable, or if it should be more closely monitored and managed.

Severe morning sickness

It’s rare, but some women do experience very severe morning sickness for short or extended periods.  This is known as hyperemesis gravidarum, and sometimes requires hospitalisation to manage the symptoms.    If, for example, your morning sickness is severe and you are losing weight, or it is seriously interfering with your ability to function, you need to see a healthcare professional to discuss how to manage the problem.  There are medications available to manage this.

If you think you may be suffering from severe morning sickness or have been diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, a good on-line information resource is the HER Foundation http://www.helpher.org/

Strategies to manage morning sickness

Here are some common strategies to try and minimise your morning sickness:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Set your alarm earlier so you can wake up and rest in bed for 10 – 15 minutes before getting up
  • Get out of bed slowly, sit on the side of the bed for a while to allow your body to adjust to the change in posture
  • Keep some plain crackers on the bedside table to snack on to settle your stomach as you get up. If you wake up nauseous during the night you could also try snacking.
  • Move slowly – no sudden moves
  • Experiment to see what foods you can tolerate and what increases your nausea
  • Sip on some water, don’t drink it too quickly
  • Have a supply of boiled lollies to suck on
  • Choose plain foods that don’t smell too strong
  • Avoid spicy or fried foods
  • Eat small amounts regularly during the day rather than bigger meals
  • If you have been vomiting a lot, try a sports drink with electrolytes and vitamins, to replenish your body
  • If you are having trouble drinking water, try a frozen fruit juice bar
  • Some fresh air might help reduce nausea
  • Ginger can be a good way to control nausea – try ginger tea or snacking on crystallized ginger
  • There are medications available for severe morning sickness if your doctor recommends this

It may also be a good idea to carry a little morning sickness survival pack which includes boiled lollies, a bottle of water, baby wipes and a sick bag, so you won’t feel panicked if nausea catches you at an awkward time.

Natural Remedies

As mentioned above, ginger is a good way to settle nausea, and you can buy ginger capsules if you have a problem with the taste of ginger.  Avoid ginger biscuits, they are high in sugar and don’t have much ginger in them.

There are other options of natural remedies that you might want to try.  It is always a good idea to discuss options with your healthcare professional before trying alternative remedies.

  • Peppermint tea or peppermint/spearmint chewing gum may help
  • Lemon balm tea or camomile tea
  • Drink flat, room temperature ginger ale
  • Acupressure – you can buy acupressure wrist bands to wear. If you feel nauseous you can press on the wrist band to apply pressure which may reduce your nausea
  • Aromatherapy – particularly mint, lemon, lime or maybe ginger
  • Acupuncture – see a registered practitioner to discuss how this may help you
  • Hypnosis – some women have found this works well for them
  • A slice of lemon in your water, or the smell of fresh-cut lemon may help
  • Increase B-complex vitamins and iron supplements
  • I have seen one memorable suggestion of drinking pickle juice, however I would hesitate to recommend that!

Managing a toddler plus morning sickness

If you are experiencing morning sickness and have other young children to care for as well, you will face extra challenges in coping during this phase.  As if vomiting regularly isn’t bad enough, you don’t really need a helpful toddler mimicking the sound of vomiting just to make you feel even more nauseous!

Plan ahead for food preparation.  Either prepare food at times of the day when you are feeling better, or accept help from others with cooking.  Frozen meals that can be reheated for the family are a good option.

Have some quiet activities handy for your toddler so you can keep them occupied if you need to sit down for a break, or disappear to the bathroom.  Some examples could be stickers, puzzles, craft books or picture books, TV or computer games.  It doesn’t matter if you usually wouldn’t allow daytime TV, for example – the aim is to allow you to rest and get you all through this period of nausea and discomfort in the best shape possible, so it is okay to compromise on your usual values as long as your toddler is safe.

Don’t hesitate to accept offers from friends or family to take your toddler off your hands for a while so you can rest and focus on looking after yourself.

Above all, try to rest and work out the best treatment options that will work for your combination of symptoms.  Discuss your morning sickness with your healthcare professional, and if you are at all concerned about any aspect of your health during your pregnancy, seek professional advice.