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Morning sickness - nausea and vomiting during pregnancy

Nausea and vomiting can be common during pregnancy. Most people call it 'morning sickness'. 

But feeling sick or vomiting can happen at any time of the day or night. Some women find it lasts all day.

Nausea and vomiting happens because of hormonal changes in your body. It can be particularly common during the first 3 months.

It can be unpleasant and exhausting. But it doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with your pregnancy. It usually clears up by 16 to 20 weeks.

There is no cure for morning sickness. But there are things you can do to help with the symptoms.

If your morning sickness causes you problems, talk to your GP, midwife or obstetrician. They might recommend some safe medications that may ease symptoms. You may have to go to hospital if your sickness is severe.

Severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum)

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a more severe form of morning sickness.

About 2 out of every 100 women will get severe morning sickness. 98 out of 100 women won't.

You're more likely to have severe morning sickness if you:

  • have a family history of bad morning sickness
  • had severe morning sickness during a previous pregnancy
  • are expecting twins, triplets or more
  • suffer from migraines
  • get bad motion sickness
  • used to get sick if you took contraception containing oestrogen
  • are having a molar pregnancy - this is when some of the cells that form the placenta or afterbirth grow abnormally (this is rare)

There are support groups for women who have severe morning sickness. You can find a support group near you on the Hyperemesis Ireland website.

Related topic

Hyperemesis gravidarum

Symptoms of morning sickness

Symptoms of morning sickness include:

  • nausea - the feeling that you need to be sick
  • being sick (vomiting)
  • losing weight
  • dehydration - if your sickness is severe

Dehydration

If you are losing fluids through vomiting you may become dehydrated. This can happen with morning sickness and severe morning sickness.

Signs of dehydration include:

  • having dark pee or peeing less often than normal
  • dryness in your mouth and lips
  • feeling faint, dizzy or unwell
  • your heart beating faster than usual

Staying hydrated

It's important to stay hydrated when you are feeling unwell.

Aim to drink 200ml of fluid  every hour for 10 hours. 200ml is about one glass.

Take small sips continuously rather than drinking it all at once. Drinking large amounts in one go can make you feel sick.

Your taste may change when you are pregnant. Try drinks you may not normally have.

If you are finding it hard to drink liquids try:

  • drinking through a straw
  • adding ice cubes to drinks
  • sucking ice cubes or ice lollies
  • flavoured drinks like watered-down fruit juice, fizzy drinks (or flat fizzy drinks), milk, flavoured milk, sports drinks or fruit cordials
  • eat foods with a high water content such as fruit, yogurt, jelly, soup, custard, ice-lollies

Talk to your GP, obstetrician or midwife immediately if you have lost weight or have any symptoms of dehydration. If you can't hold down fluids at any stage, go to the emergency department (ED) in your maternity hospital.

How to cope with morning sickness

Rest

Get plenty of rest - being tired can make you feel worse.

If you have children at home, try to go to bed when they do.

Give yourself time to get out of bed if you feel sick in the mornings. Sit up slowly and wait a few minutes before standing. Moving very quickly can make you feel sick or dizzy.

Loud noises and bright lights can trigger sickness in some women. 

Eat small amounts often

It can be hard to eat a healthy diet when you are not feeling well. Don't worry if your diet isn’t the healthiest when you are sick.

Aim to eat little and often throughout the day. Eat enough to keep your energy levels up and prevent weight loss.

Things you can do

  • Nibble your favourite foods every 2 hours - long gaps without food will make nausea worse.
  • Dry and plain foods are easiest to tolerate, such as dry toast, biscuits, crackers, pasta, rice, dry cereal and cereal bars.
  • Bring some dry crackers to bed with you to eat when you wake. Wait about 15-20 minutes before slowly getting up after eating the crackers.
  • Keep your meals simple.
  • Have easy-to-prepare foods in the house, such as beans or ready made meals.
  • Eat foods that have lots of energy in a small amount, such as nuts, cheese, hummus, full-fat yogurt, avocado.
  • Eat more when you are hungry – do not wait for mealtimes.

Avoid food smells

Some cooking smells may make you feel sick. Having easily- prepared or ready-to eat foods in the house is useful so that you can avoid cooking.

When food is being cooked you could go out for a short walk, or sit in a different room with a window open.

To block out smells, try putting a scented handkerchief to your nose. Use a scent that you find soothing, like essential oil or fresh cut lemons.

Try ginger

Eating foods or drinks that contain ginger may help to reduce mild nausea and vomiting. Check with your pharmacist before taking a ginger supplement to make sure it's safe for your pregnancy. 

Take folic acid

Take folic acid at the time of the day you are feeling best.

Some women choose to take a multivitamin throughout their pregnancy. This can be difficult to take for some women while they are not feeling well.

Some brands have a liquid form of antenatal multivitamins. Sometimes this can be easier to take.

Related topic

Folic acid when planning a pregnancy

Rinse your teeth after being sick

If you vomit, rinse your mouth out with water. Your teeth will be softened by your stomach acid, so do not brush straight away. Wait about an hour to brush your teeth.

Oral hygiene can be difficult when you have severe morning sickness. But it's important to look after your teeth and gums.

page last reviewed: 20/11/2018
next review due: 20/11/2021