How to cope with morning sickness

Morning sickness

Morning sickness is a cruel misnomer: for many pregnant women the only time they don't feel nauseous is when they're asleep. Most women experience at least some sickness during their first trimester, and the symptoms can come and go or occasionally develop later in pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is no magic cure if you're suffering – but there are plenty of tried-and-tested remedies which are worth a try.

When does morning sickness start?

Morning sickness is often one of the first pregnancy symptoms, with the queasiness usually starting when you're around six weeks pregnant – though it can also begin a few weeks earlier. Many women experience at least some morning sickness during their first trimester. It doesn't necessarily strike as soon as you've taken a pregnancy test for a missed period though. You can expect to feel the worst nausea around nine weeks – though every woman is different.

When pregnant I was sick morning, noon and night – night being the worst actually. Morning sickness is an insulting term for something that can take over your life.

What causes morning sickness?

Scientists don't know exactly what causes morning sickness, but those pesky hormonal changes are probably partly responsible. What's for sure is that every woman experiences it differently; some may breeze through barf-free, while for others morning sickness can be a really debilitating experience.

When does morning sickness stop?

Morning sickness will normally stop around when you're 12 weeks to 14 weeks pregnant – but one in 10 unlucky women still feel sick after 20 weeks. Don't get complacent if it eases early; the symptoms can come and go.

Who does morning sickness affect?

Morning sickness is a very common ailment, affecting around eight out of 10 women. You're more likely to suffer with it if:

  • it's your first pregnancy
  • you've had it in a previous pregnancy
  • you've had motion sickness before
  • you've got a history of nausea while using contraceptives that contain oestrogen
  • there's a family history of morning sickness
  • you're obese (BMI of 30 or more)
  • you're expecting twins or triplets
  • you're stressed (and who wouldn't be, during pregnancy?)

What are the symptoms of morning sickness?

Firstly, whoever called it morning sickness can do one. Health professionals favour the term 'nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP)' because, in truth, it can strike at any time.

It's a weird feeling, like having two stomachs – one that wants to throw up and burp constantly, and the other that is constantly ravenous and thinking about food all the time.

Some women are sick, others feel nauseous without actually being sick. At a point when you may already feel tired and emotional and have a heightened sense of smell, it can be very trying – especially if no one else knows you're pregnant yet.

If you can't keep anything down for days on end and you're becoming dehydrated, then you may have hyperemesis and you'll need to go and see your doctor or midwife, who will be able to monitor you closely.

When should I see a doctor?

There is a chance you can become dehydrated or malnourished if you're suffering from bad morning sickness. Contact your GP or midwife immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • you have very dark-coloured urine or do not urinate for more than eight hours
  • you are unable to keep food or fluids down for 24 hours
  • you feel severely weak, dizzy or faint when standing up
  • you have abdominal pain
  • you have a high temperature of 38C or above
  • you vomit blood

In addition, urinary tract infections (UTIs) can also cause nausea and vomiting. If you have any pain when going to the toilet or notice any blood in your wee, you may have a urine infection and this will need treatment. Drink plenty of water to reduce the pain, but get yourself to a doctor too (your body will thank you for it).

I had no morning sickness at all with my first pregnancy and he came out perfect healthy. I've always had a bit of a beef against people who say 'sickness indicates a healthy pregnancy'. Rubbish! Everyone reacts to pregnancy hormones in their own way.

Is morning sickness a good sign?

Gross and debilitating as it is, morning sickness won't usually harm you or your baby in any way and, in fact, if you do feel sick, research suggests you're less likely to have a miscarriage.

Should I worry if I don't get morning sickness?

Try not to worry if you don't get morning sickness – and keep your fingers crossed that you don't develop it later on in pregnancy. So long as your doctor says your hormone levels are fine, consider yourself as having had a lucky escape!

Is there a cure for morning sickness?

Resting pregnant woman

Unfortunately there's no wonder cure for morning sickness, but there are plenty of things that you can try to ease the discomfort. Remember that everyone's different – what worked for someone else might have no impact for you, so try not to worry if you find these solutions don't pan out (as frustrating as that might be).

Popular remedies for morning sickness:

  • Lots of rest
  • Dry toast, crackers and digestive biscuits
  • Plenty of fluids – sip them slowly and frequently
  • Eating little and often
  • Avoid smelly and spicy food
  • Avoid drinks that are very cold, sour or sweet
  • Ginger (the biscuit variety, or ginger tea)
  • Acupuncture or travel sickness wristbands

Coping with morning sickness – Mumsnetters' recommend:

Just try and eat as much as you can (don't gorge, I mean little and often) and if you fancy something then have it. Anything to make you feel a bit more human.
  • Sorbet or ice lollies
  • Cold baked potatoes
  • Boiled rice
  • Crisps
  • Liquorice Allsorts
  • Oatcakes
  • Flat Coke
  • A diet high in zinc (seeds, wholemeal bread, small amounts of eggs and red meat)
  • “Try to eat before you start feeling nauseous – having a snack next to your bed for when you wake up can help”
  • “Eat a small bowl of porridge before you go to bed at night”
  • “Carry mints everywhere (helpful as a breath freshener, too, if you're sick when you're out somewhere)”
  • “Online food shopping, if going round the supermarket makes you want to retch”
  • A little self-pity – “My aunt recommended sitting on the bathroom floor wailing 'Oh please, just let me die'. I felt more comforted by her telling me that than by all those who offered more conventional advice.”

Is medication for morning sickness safe?

If you've tried natural remedies, including diet and lifestyle changes, and your nausea and vomiting is severe, a doctor may recommend a course of medication that is safe for use in pregnancy – probably an antiemetic or an antihistamine.

Morning sickness at work and your rights

As with any illness, if you are experiencing morning sickness to a degree that would impact your ability to work, you may want to – and are entitled to – take time off work. You employer should respect this and be supportive.

Pregnant woman at work

The 2010 Equality Act states that it is unlawful discrimination for an employer to treat a woman unfavourably due to pregnancy or illness relating to pregnancy. Discriminatory treatment includes withholding sick pay and unfair dismissal. If you think you have been subject to discrimination, you may wish to claim for compensation through an employment tribunal.

If other words – if you're too sick to work, you're too sick to work. It's as simple as that. Visit your doctor and explain the situation, and ask for a sick note if you need it.

If you are able to continue working, you might want to tell your employer so they can make adjustments – which they are legally required to do to protect your health. For example, it may be that you need easier access to a toilet, or a desk not so close to the kitchen and the smell of someone heating up last night's curry for lunch.