Get an overview of the causes, symptoms, and treatments of this common pregnancy condition, and find out when nausea and vomiting start and end for most women.
There's a lot to look forward to in pregnancy: Shinier hair, that extra scoop of ice cream in your dessert, and of course, the beautiful baby at the other end of these 40 weeks. But no one in her right mind looks forward to morning sickness, that first-trimester bout of nausea and vomiting.
Here's an overview of why you're feeling so sick, how long symptoms will last, and the remedies and treatments that can prevent or relieve your nausea.
The Causes of Morning Sickness
You can blame hormones for your queasiness. Your body is producing them in hyperdrive to help build the placenta and start your baby's growth. The two biggest culprits are hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), which is produced by your fertilized egg to help grow the placenta, and estrogen, which helps everything grow and develop, from the uterine lining that protects your baby to your baby itself. Both of these hormones surge during early pregnancy.
If your body can't tolerate the sudden increases, you start feeling ill. "Imagine you're in an elevator and you're going from the first floor to the 150th floor," says Marra Francis, M.D., an ob-gyn in Woodlands, Texas, and a contributing author with the Mommy MD Guides. "You'll feel the change significantly if you're doing that in 10 seconds, rather than 10 minutes. Once the second trimester starts, the hormone levels are still changing but not at the same rate, so most women can tolerate it better."
These hormones also affect the digestive system, slowing the progression of food through your stomach and intestines. Having food that lingers can make you feel ill.
It's hard to predict who will end up getting morning sickness. You may be at risk if you're pregnant with multiples (you'll get a higher dose of all of those hormones) or if you're pregnant with a girl or prone to motion sickness normally. But even if you've had morning sickness in previous pregnancies, that's no indication that you'll get it again next time you're expecting.
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Morning Sickness Symptoms
For most moms-to-be, morning sickness means nausea and occasional vomiting, but 30 percent of moms never get it, and a few unlucky moms have severe morning sickness (also known as Hyperemis Gravidarum), which is nausea and vomiting so frequent that they'll require hospitalization to keep them hydrated and try to treat the nausea. And while it's called morning sickness, that's kind of a misnomer: Nearly 80 percent of moms-to-be say they've gotten it at a different time of day, including at night
When Morning Sickness Starts and Ends
For most women, morning sickness starts between weeks six and eight, and ends by week 14, when your "golden" second trimester rolls in. In rare cases nausea can continue into the second or third trimester.
- Related: Managing Morning Sickness at Work
Morning Sickness Remedies
There's are many ways to ease the symptoms of morning sickness. "You should experiment with everything," says Michele Hakakha, M.D., FACOG, an ob-gyn in Beverly Hills and author of Expecting 411. "Some women need to use five different methods in order to function for the eight weeks of morning sickness."
Natural remedies like ginger, lemon, and mint can be eaten or even just sniffed to help quell an upset stomach. Eating many small meals and snacking on a few crackers before getting out of bed helps many moms-to-be (an empty tummy is often a queasy tummy), and exercise can help release endorphins that can help address the fatigue that often comes hand-in-hand with the nausea and vomiting. In more severe cases, treatments might include prescription medications, stronger drugs that can quell the queasiest stomachs and make it easier for you to deal with the morning sickness.