Morning sickness during pregnancy

Morning sickness refers to the nausea and vomiting that women experience during pregnancy. Whilst the name of this condition implies that it only occurs in the morning, this nausea and vomiting can occur at any time of the day.

Morning sickness is so common that about 7 in 10 pregnant women will experience it in the first trimester. For many women, the nausea begins around week 6 of the pregnancy, and tends to pick at about 9-10 weeks. For a good number of pregnancies, the morning sickness tapers off in the second trimester. For other women, it persists throughout the pregnancy. Mild morning sickness does not cause harm to the unborn baby. When it is severe, however, it may cause a condition known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Hyperemesis Gravidarum has significant effects on the pregnancy, and an affected woman may require hospitalization.

Why does morning sickness occur during pregnancy?

There is no specific reason why some women get morning sickness. It is thought that a significant increase in pregnancy hormones may contribute to morning sickness. Another school of thought links morning sickness to reduced blood glucose levels during pregnancy. Other conditions that may aggravate morning sickness include:

  • Chronic exhaustion and fatigue
  • Increased stress levels
  • Women who experience motion sickness

Read More: Here are tips for taking care of your newborn’s umbilical cord

How can I get relief from morning sickness?

For majority of pregnant women, medical attention is not required for morning sickness. Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which we will look at below, is a severe condition for which women may need hospitalization. There are a few things, however, that you can do to get relief from morning sickness. These include:

  • Taking as much rest as you need to so as to help you deal with the exhaustion. As mentioned above, fatigue tends to make morning sickness worse, so it is crucial that you get enough rest.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration tends to increase nausea and vomiting. Take enough fluids regularly, throughout the day. To do this, most women will find that taking small amounts of water goes a long way in getting relief from morning sickness. Sucking on ice cubes and mint candy has also proven helpful for some women.
  • Eat smaller meals, more frequently. This works better for many women who find it better than eating three large meals. Additionally, sweet and spicy foods can be overwhelming during morning sickness. Instead, opt for dry and savory foods or snacks. In the same breath, women may sometimes opt for cold foods as these tend to have weaker odours than hot meals, although this also boils down to one’s preference.
  • Identify any triggers that increase your nausea and vomiting. These vary from one woman to another, but avoiding these triggers whenever possible, helps reduce the intensity of the morning sickness.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (abbreviated HG) represents a severe form of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Due to the severe vomiting, HG often leads to significant weight loss and electrolyte disturbances. HG is thought to be connected to the sharp increase in hormonal levels. However, just like morning sickness, the precise cause remains unknown.

HG symptoms typically appear between the 4th and 6th week of pregnancy, with the most severity between the 9th and 13th week. While a good number of pregnant women will get relief as they approach the second trimester, 1 in 5 women may need hospital care for HG. How then, can you tell the difference between morning sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

How can I distinguish between morning sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

There are a number of differences between morning sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum. These are only meant to guide; Make sure you talk to your doctor if you are experiencing nausea and vomiting that doesn’t seem to go away.


Morning sickness


Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Nausea reduces at around the 12th week of the pregnancy.Nausea does not reduce at any point in the pregnancy
The nausea is sometimes accompanied by vomiting, that is often mild.Nausea is accompanied by severe and frequent vomiting
The vomiting does not lead to severe dehydrationThe vomiting causes severe dehydration
The mom is able to keep some food down when they eat, and this often allows a steady increase in weight as the pregnancy progresses after 1st trim.The mom is totally unable to keep any food down when they eat (usually leads to significant weight loss)


Read More: One Kenyan Mom’s experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

What are the signs and symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

  • Severe nausea and vomiting that does not subside as the pregnancy progresses
  • Getting dehydrated. Dehydration presents itself as feeling extremely thirsty, having a dry mouth as well as having a rapid heart rate. Dehydration also leads to the body producing very little or no urine.
  • Fainting
  • Vomiting that causes you to experience dizziness or feel lightheaded.
  • Headaches that are sometimes accompanied by confusion
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Weight loss of <5% of the weight before pregnancy
  • Some women may also experience depression and anxiety owing to the complications that arise from HG.

Read More: Here is what you need to know about gestational diabetes

What treatment options exist for Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

In cases where HG is very severe, pregnant women may need hospitalization. This is necessary for the following reasons:

  • For the administration of Intravenous (IV) fluids to help reverse dehydration and restore the balance of electrolytes and nutrients in the body.
  • Feeding through a tube in cases where it is necessary.
  • Provision of medications to provide relief from the nausea and vomiting.

Additional treatment options may include bed rest to deal with the fatigue and exhaustion as well as herbs that help relieve the discomfort – such as ginger and peppermint.

Remember to get medical attention urgently if:

  • You continue to experience nausea and vomiting and are unable to keep any food down.
  • If the vomiting does not subside in the second trimester (that is, after the 12th week of pregnancy).
  • If you experience pain and/or fever.

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