Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that happens during early pregnancy (generally between 8 and 12 weeks), but it can occur at any time. Though 70% to 85% of women have morning sickness, only about 1% to 2% will have enough problems that it can threaten their health or the health of the pregnancy. This much more severe disorder is called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Morning sickness is more likely with a multiple pregnancy (twins or more).
The cause is unknown, but factors that may be involved include hormones called human chorionic gonadotropin and estrogen. Other contributing factors are younger age of the mother, body weight (obesity), no previous completed pregnancies, first pregnancy, and history of morning sickness in prior pregnancies. Biological, psychological, and social factors may all play a role.
Symptoms usually begin between the fourth and eighth week of pregnancy and last until 16 weeks or more. Most women vomit more often early in the day, but it can happen throughout the day. If this becomes severe, other symptoms can include severe nausea, weight loss, reduced urination, headaches, confusion, fainting, and jaundice. Dehydration is manifested by decreased need to urinate, increased pulse rate, and lower blood pressure.
The diagnosis of morning sickness is one that you can make yourself: If you don’t have any other reason for being sick and you are pregnant, you have morning sickness. The severe form (hyperemesis gravidarum) is diagnosed by your health care provider when severe nausea and vomiting lead to weight loss, dehydration, or disturbances in the body’s chemistry. To be sure that nothing else is causing these symptoms, the health care provider may do blood and urine tests. Ultrasonography may also be done.
When symptoms aren’t too bad, eating dry foods such as crackers and small, frequent meals may be enough. Drinking more fluids may help increase fluid intake. (If you drink fizzy drinks such as seltzer or other sparkling water, pour it over ice and let it sit for a bit to let some of the fizz out.) Women with the severest form may need intravenous fluids and vitamins and hospitalization. Medicines to prevent nausea (antiemetics) are for women with severe and long-lasting vomiting.
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