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Morning Sickness

What is morning sickness?

Morning sickness is a condition of nausea (feeling sick) and/or vomiting (being sick) during pregnancy; it is also known as nausea/vomiting of pregnancy or pregnancy sickness. It usually occurs in the morning, but can occur at any time during the day and night. It is common in early pregnancy, usually beginning around 6 weeks of pregnancy, and stopping after 4–5 months. Some women experience very severe sickness during pregnancy called hyperemesis gravidarum, which can be serious due to potential dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and malnourishment though lack of fluids and food. Signs and symptoms of more serious morning sickness requiring medical advice include inability to keep fluids and food down for 24 hours; weight loss; weakness, dizziness and fainting on standing; pain in your stomach; very dark urine, not passing urine for over 8 hours; or pain and blood when you pass urine.

Medication for morning sickness

The Online Clinic can prescribe a medication for morning sickness called Xonvea.

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How common is morning sickness?

Morning sickness is a common problem that affects about 50–80% of pregnant women. Hyperemesis gravidarum is rare, affecting about 1-2% of all pregnant women.

When does morning sickness start and stop?

It is common in early pregnancy, usually beginning around 6 weeks of pregnancy, and stopping after 4–5 months.

What causes morning sickness?

The cause of morning sickness is not fully understood, although hormonal changes during the first trimester (three months) of pregnancy is thought to play a role. An increase in the level of the hormone oestrogen (that has a role in both the menstrual cycle and pregnancy) the presence of the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (which is produced by the placenta and used as an indicator in pregnancy tests) and are thought to be implicated. Other factors such as low blood sugar levels and an increase in the hormone progesterone (that relaxes the uterine muscles to prevent childbirth) may also lead to nausea.

A first pregnancy, twins or triplets rather than a single baby, and a self-history or family history of morning sickness can increase the risk of morning sickness. The chance of morning sickness can also be raised if you are stressed, experience motion sickness, migraine, or are obese.

What makes morning sickness worse?

Various factors can make morning sickness worse. These include tiredness, drinking or eating large quantities at any one time, eating rich, greasy, spicy and/or strong-smelling foods, missing meals, lying down after eating, and overheated places. Many women have ‘triggers’ that increase the severity and frequency of nausea and/or vomiting, such as certain cooking smells, food tastes, tobacco smoke, and other odours.

How is morning sickness treated?

Some self-help practices can help to ameliorate nausea and vomiting, such as:

  • Eating plain and dry foods before you get up in the morning
  • Eating small meals that are high in protein or carbohydrates frequently
  • Choose cold rather than hot foods to limit food smells
  • Generally, choose bland or plain foods
  • Sitting up for 30–60 minutes after a meal can prevent reflux
  • Drinking plenty of fluids, taking frequent small sips
  • Drink or eat food containing ginger
  • Take vitamin B6 supplements
  • Wearing acupuncture wristbands that are also used to prevent motion sickness
  • Rest and relax, and wear loose clothing, because being tired and uncomfortable can exacerbate nausea

A doctor can prescribe a medication called Xonvea. This medication is available via The Online Clinic. The medication contains doxylamine succinate and pyridoxine hydrochloride. The medication is taken in the evening at bedtime. If the initial dosing proves inadequately effective, the doctor will recommend a dosing adjustment.

Do not take any medicines for your nausea and vomiting without first speaking with your healthcare provider. In more severe cases, nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can be treated in the short term with an antisickness medicine called an antiemetic, which may be administered orally, as an injection, or as a suppository (through your rectum). Other medicines containing vitamin B6 are also available to prevent nausea and vomiting.

Reviewed by: Dr Joyce Braaksma
GMC registration number: 4621289
Date: 16 March 2022
Next review: 17 March 2024
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