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Can You Have Morning Nausea When You’re NOT Pregnant?

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There are many common causes of nausea—here’s what it could be, and what to do about it.

woman nauseas

It goes like this: You wake up feeling kind of nauseous, or maybe it sets in on the way to work. It’s not quite the violent assault of say, food poisoning, but your stomach definitely feels off. First thought: Could I be pregnant? Second thought (or one quick test later): Nope, definitely not. But then what the heck is driving that queasy feeling in your gut?

Turns out there are many possible causes for morning nausea, ranging from minor to more serious. Here are some of the more likely ones—and how to handle the situation so you can feel better, ASAP.

You’re nervous about something. Still stewing about that blow-up at work yesterday? Need to talk to your partner about something important? If something nerve-wracking is on your mind, it could be causing physical symptoms, says Dr. Randy Fiorentino, an OB-GYN with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California. “Anxiety is a pretty good player with regard to nausea and vomiting outside of pregnancy,” he says. Once you identify the cause, you can take steps to address the situation. In the meantime, some slow, deep breathing never hurts.

You’ve got a headache. In some cases, Dr. Fiorentino says, nausea and vomiting can precede a migraine (as opposed to riding along when the head pain sets in). And while migraines are notorious for coming with a side of nausea, Dr. Fiorentino warns that queasiness can occur with any type of headache. Treat the headache as you normally would, and if the nausea subsides along with the head pain, you’ll know what caused it. If it doesn’t—and none of these other possibilities seem likely—then call your doctor.

It’s heartburn. “There are some things that increase the chance of having heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder),” Dr. Fiorentino says. “If you’re 40 or older, overweight, and tend to have a high-fat diet, you’re more likely to experience it.” That said, heartburn can strike anyone. This condition has a number of symptoms, including chest pain, a burning sensation or sticking feeling in your throat, and yes, Dr. Fiorentino explains, sometimes nausea too.

You’ve got a UTI. Oh, but it doesn’t burn when you pee, you say? Dr. Fiorentino warns that urinary tract infections (commonly known as bladder infections) don’t always come with that telltale burn. In fact, Dr. Fiorentino says asymptomatic UTIs are very common in women. “Twenty percent of time you won’t know you have one,” he says, “and if it progresses to reach the kidneys, it can come with nausea and vomiting.” If the more obvious culprits aren’t to blame for your nausea, and it continues, book an appointment with your doctor to rule out or treat a UTI.

You ate breakfast too early—or haven’t eaten a thing yet. Often, getting your kids ready and out the door means you either eat breakfast before you get them up, or the morning is such a whirlwind that you realize you forgot to feed yourself at all. Either deviation from your usual morning food routine can lead to a queasy feeling, Dr. Fiorentino says. Take time to reflect on your breakfast circumstances today and consider whether that might have caused your nausea. You may not have time to sit down tomorrow either, but try to grab a granola bar or whole-wheat toaster waffle that you can eat while you’re waiting for your kids to tie their shoelaces all by themselves.