Struggling with morning sickness? We answer your questions & give top tips for helping relieve & cope with symptoms

Pregnancy can be a wonderful time, but sometimes symptoms like morning sickness can make this time a little more challenging.   

Here, we cover the things you need to know about morning sickness and what you can do to help keep the nausea and sickness at bay.

What is morning sickness?

Morning sickness is a very common symptom of pregnancy, causing waves of nausea and vomiting. Although it’s called morning sickness, it can affect you at any time of the day or night or make you feel sick all day long. Don’t worry though, as this doesn’t put your baby at any increased risk.

Some pregnant people may have more severe morning sickness, known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). This can be serious but we’ll go into it soon.

When does morning sickness start?

Typically, morning sickness is most common in early pregnancy with most people having bouts of nausea and sickness within the first trimester. This is due to the hormonal changes that occur in the body during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

While morning sickness usually eases off by weeks 16 to 20 of pregnancy, this can differ from person to person – some people might not experience any morning sickness, while others may have it for a prolonged amount of time.

Symptoms of morning sickness

Symptoms of morning sickness include vomiting and nausea (you may notice certain foods or smells make you feel sick).

The changes in hormones can sometimes increase the risk of getting urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can also cause nausea and vomiting.

Some people may experience hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which can affect around 3% of people with morning sickness and can seriously impact your day-to-day life. Symptoms of HG include:

• Frequent, prolonged and severe sickness, nausea and retching

Dehydration– this includes feeling thirsty, tired, dizzy or lightheaded, not urinating very often and having dark yellow, strong-smelling pee

• Weight loss – this may mean your baby is born smaller than expected (have a low birthweight) but this is unlikely to harm them

• Malnourishment – not getting enough nutrients from your diet

With approximately 30,000 pregnancies per year in the UK suffering with HG, it’s important to speak to your midwife or GP as soon as possible if you think you have HG. In most cases, this requires hospital treatment.

Who’s at risk for morning sickness?

While everyone’s different, some people may be more at risk of getting morning sickness, such as those who:

• Are having twins or more

• Had severe sickness and vomiting in a previous pregnancy

• Tend to get motion sickness (for example, car sick)

• Have a history of migraine headaches

• Have morning sickness run in the family

• Used to feel sick when taking contraceptives containing oestrogen

• Are experiencing their first pregnancy

• Are feeling stressed

• Are obese (your BMI is 30 or more) – you can work out your BMI score by using a BMI chart.

If one or more of the above applies to you and you’re concerned, speak to your midwife or GP.

Morning sickness remedies & treatment

As unpleasant as morning sickness is, mother nature has got to run its course. Although there’s no cure for morning sickness, there are both home remedies and coping methods that can be tried and tested to help relieve symptoms, as well as some treatments to help alleviate sickness.

Home remedies & coping strategies

Get plenty of rest

As hard as it may be to put your feet up, it’s important to get as much rest as possible as tiredness can make nausea and vomiting worse.

Avoid your nausea triggers

If you have strong aversions to certain foods and smells, or you’re more sensitive to bright lights or movement, try steering clear of them where possible to help reduce your nausea.

Tweak your eating habits 

As well as avoiding certain foods, it can also be beneficial to try eating small, frequent meals as an empty stomach can worsen nausea. Opting for plain foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in fats such as bread, rice, crackers and pasta may help with symptoms. You may also want to try eating more cold foods rather than hot ones if the smell of hot meals makes you feel sick.

If your morning sickness happens more in the mornings, try eating something like dry toast or a plain biscuit before you get out of bed to help alleviate any nausea.

If you’re struggling to keep food down, speak to your GP.

Drink plenty of fluids

Morning sickness can make you dehydrated very quickly, so try to drink as much water as possible. Some of our top tips include:

• Trying to drink little and often

• Sucking ice cubes made of water or juice

• Sipping very slowly through a straw

• Having ice lollies

• Drinking bottled water as you may find this more pleasant than tap water

• Seeing if you can eat foods with a higher water content such as watermelon and cucumber

Consume foods or drinks containing ginger

There's some evidence out there that suggests ginger may help reduce nausea and vomiting in some people, so look out for things like ginger biscuits and teas.

Check with your pharmacist before taking ginger supplements during pregnancy.

Be prepared

If you’re out and about when morning sickness strikes or you feel nauseous while you’re at work, it’s best to be prepared with our following tips:

• Always carry something to eat with you such as crackers or a banana

• Help reduce smell triggers by carrying essential oils or perfume you can tolerate to temporarily mask the smell

• Carry a paper sick bag with you in case you don’t have access to a toilet and always have wet wipes, tissues and a bottle of water for rinsing out your mouth afterwards

Coping emotionally

If your morning sickness is starting to take a toll, you’re starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed, or you want some extra support with your mental health, speak to your midwife or GP who can point you in the direction of relevant support systems available. It’s also good to confide in loved ones about how you’re feeling for a little extra support.

Anti-sickness medication

If you’ve tried the above lifestyle changes and you’re still struggling with morning sickness, speak to your GP who may recommend a short-term course of anti-sickness medicine. They’ll take into consideration the risks and benefits of taking the medicine during pregnancy.

This is called an antiemetic, which is often a type of antihistamine. While they’re typically used to treat allergy symptoms, they also double up to work as medicines to stop sickness.

They’ll be given to you as tablets but if you can’t keep these down, your GP may suggest an injection or a medicine that’s inserted into your bottom (suppository). 

Whichever course of treatment you decide on, rest assured that your GP will talk you through it and answer any questions you may have.

When to contact your GP or midwife

If you’re struggling to cope with your morning sickness or you feel like something isn’t quite right, it’s best to seek help from your midwife or GP.

It’s also important to call your midwife, GP or NHS 111 if you’re vomiting and you:

• Have very dark-coloured urine or you’ve not had a wee for eight hours or more

• Are unable to keep food or fluids down for 24 hours

• Feel severely weak, dizzy or faint when you stand up

• Have tummy (abdominal) pain

• Have a high temperature

• Are vomiting blood

• Are unintentionally losing weight

They can assess your symptoms and determine the right treatment for you, as well as providing you with some coping strategies and support.

If you’d like a little extra support, visit the Pregnancy Sickness Support Charity which has great resources for morning sickness.