Updated August 21, 2019
Many women ask the question: When does morning sickness start during pregnancy? Morning sickness is one of the most common and earliest symptoms of pregnancy (often beginning around the 6th weeks of pregnancy) and affects as many as 80% of pregnant women in their first trimester.
The cause of morning sickness appears to be primarily hormonal. This is based on the best information we have available and after many scientific studies.
However, this offers little comfort to those who have to deal with it since symptomatic relief is the only treatment we have at this time. I have seen countless women with very mild morning sickness to the most severe form known as hyperemesis gravidarum.
What is most frustrating about this condition is that its severity and duration are unpredictable.
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You are not alone if you have questions and are suffering from morning sickness! Though it is called morning sickness, it should more aptly be named ‘All-The-Time sickness” for many, as It is not just in the morning. However, when it subsides it almost always resolves completely and does not return.
When does morning sickness start during pregnancy?
Morning sickness can start very early in pregnancy and can be one of the first symptoms of pregnancy. This is consistent with the belief that nausea associated with pregnancy is hormonal (HCG hormone).
Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is the “pregnancy test” hormone and is elevated as soon as implantation of the embryo occurs.
Morning sickness most often begins around the 6th week of pregnancy. Don’t be surprised if morning sickness is your constant companion throughout the first trimester.
There is no question morning sickness can make you feel awful, but you are not alone and the good news is that in most cases, it won’t last your whole pregnancy.
What is morning sickness?
Morning sickness refers to nausea associated with the first trimester of pregnancy. The severity of it varies tremendously ranging from very mild to severe.
For some women “morning sickness” is only present in the morning, for many others it presents as “all-day sickness” or “all night sickness”.
When severe and persistent, morning sickness is then referred to as hyperemesis gravidarum.
What causes morning sickness?
There have been many theories about what causes morning sickness and it may be a combination of factors.
The following are the most common science-based theories to explain the cause of morning sickness:
1. HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin)
During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the “pregnancy test” hormone, HCG doubles every two days. It is thought by most, that HCG is the primary hormone responsible for morning sickness.
It is interesting to note that women with twins have higher levels of HCG and tend to have more severe morning sickness.
2. Estrogen Hormone
Estrogen increases by 100 fold during pregnancy. It is thought that this may contribute to morning sickness; however, many women have elevated estrogen without morning sickness.
3. Progesterone Hormone
Progesterone relaxes smooth muscle. Smooth muscle is involved in our digestive activity.
Progesterone slows down digestion and gastric emptying which may contribute to nausea and vomiting.
Due to the changes in metabolism during pregnancy, women should eat smaller meals more frequently to maintain a cube of stable blood sugar. This can reduce the chances of hypoglycemic episodes (low blood sugar).
When one’s blood sugar is low, aside from feeling shaky and lightheaded, some individuals can experience nausea and vomiting.
*There is likely more than one cause for morning sickness as some women with high hormone levels may have no morning sickness.
When should I expect morning sickness to end?
For most women, morning sickness subsides by 12 to 16 weeks of pregnancy. However, for some, nausea and vomiting can persist and extend beyond 20 weeks gestation.
While most women can expect morning sickness to end by week 16 of pregnancy, a small minority may deal without throughout pregnancy. If your nausea and vomiting have not subsided by week 16 of your pregnancy, contact your doctor.
Tips to make dealing with morning sickness easier:
1. Eat a small number of crackers before getting out of bed in the morning.
Keep crackers or even dry cereal next to your bed and eat a little when you feel nauseous.
Some people find that potato chips help their nausea. Do what works best for you. You may need to experiment a little to see what helps you the most.
2. Stand up slowly and carefully.
Stand up slowly from a sitting position. Moving too quickly can make you feel more nauseous and lightheaded. Moving more slowly gives your body time to adjust.
When you get out of bed, take your time and try to eat on some crackers before you stand up.
3. Eat several small meals a day.
Try to eat several small meals a day. Try to not overload your stomach when you eat. Avoid greasy and fried foods whenever possible. Eating fried or greasy foods could increase your feelings of morning sickness.
Eat a bedtime snack, this can help to minimize nausea and vomiting that occurs when your stomach is empty during the night.
Have a snack that contains both a carbohydrate and a protein. Half a sandwich or greek yogurt with berries are great choices.
Try not to eat too late at night. Lying down after eating, can cause reflux which could make you more nauseous in the morning.
4. Eat more carbohydrate foods.
If you have no blood sugar problems, you can eat more high carbohydrate foods (Pasta, cereal, and toast) if you have morning sickness.
Eating more carbs was very helpful to me when I had morning, noon, and night sickness.
Pancakes were my best friend for weeks. It was the only thing I could eat that kept nausea away.
5. Getting more rest can help prevent or relieve morning sickness.
Being tired and run down can increase your feelings of nausea. Schedule time for a short nap if you need one.
Try to get to bed at a reasonable hour and at the same time each night.
6. Ginger tea and ginger ale may help reduce nausea.
Ginger tea or ginger ale is the old standby for morning sickness relief. Studies have shown that ginger is effective at reducing feelings of nausea.
You can try ginger candies or even make a batch of ginger cookies if you don’t like ginger ale.
7. Try to limit computer use when possible.
Electronic devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones have a strobe effect that can make you feel more nauseous.
Trying to limit computer use can be difficult if you use one all day for work. Try to take short breaks from looking at the screen when you can.
8. Drink more water.
Nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness can cause you to become dehydrated which can lead to more nausea and vomiting. It can become a vicious cycle, so stay on top of your hydration by drinking small amounts of liquid all day long.
Water is best, but Gatorade, juice, soups, and milk are good choices if you can keep them done better than plain water.
If you hate the taste of plain water, try a water infuser! This is the one I use and recommend to everyone. It is made by LA Organics and is an Amazon Best Choice.
9. Take your prenatal vitamin with food.
If taking your prenatal vitamin increases your nausea, you can take it with food which may help decrease your nausea. Some women find it helpful to take their prenatal vitamin before bedtime. Others find gummy prenatal vitamins are better tolerated during the first trimester.
10. Try to stay cool
Especially during the warm summer months, make it a priority to keep yourself cool. Overheating can make you feel nauseous. Drink plenty of cool fluids, keep your bedroom cool at night and use a fan or air conditioner when you need to.
11. There are morning sickness products that can help:
These are a few products that can help relieve the queasiness and nausea early in your pregnancy subside. Though a certain product does not work for everyone, trial-by-error may help you arrive at a remedy that will relieve your symptoms:
- Sea Bands
- Preggo Pops
- Morning Sickness Tea
The Sea-Bands are acupressure bands that people have used for many years to manage motion sickness. They have also been found to be effective for the treatment of morning sickness.
Perhaps the best thing about this treatment is that there is no risk in giving them a try.
Acupressure bands used to be hard to find years ago. Now they are readily available online.
Perhaps the most exciting treatment for nausea is the Reliefband which is up to 85% effective for the treatment of nausea. This band transmits impulses to the median nerve in the wrist and acts at the level of the brain to decrease nausea. The process is called neuromodulation and the reviews have been amazing for the management of nausea associated with pregnancy as well as many other causes (motion sickness, postoperative nausea, etc.).
Thought the Reliefband can be very effective, there are a few precautions to keep in mind if you choose to try it out.
- If you have a latex allergy you cannot use the band.
- The gold metal plates that are in contact with your skin can cause a reaction with redness and blisters. If this happens you will need to discontinue use.
- There is a guarantee but it is limited. The guarantee is only for 14 days (this should be enough time to know if it works)
Preggie Pop Drops are individually wrapped sour candies that many women swear by for morning sickness relief. They are small you can slip them in your pocket or purse and have them handy when nausea strikes.
It may sound counterintuitive to eat something sour when you feel nauseous, but it often does work to reduce nausea and vomiting. (Safety warning: They are made in a facility that processes peanuts.)
Morning Sickness Tea: Organic ginger and black tea that eases nausea and vomiting of morning sickness. You can drink it either hot or cold.
12. Drinking warm liquids.
Drinking warm liquids can relieve feelings of nausea for some women. You can try decaffeinated tea, warm broth, and soups. Be careful with homemade broth, it can sometimes be greasy and could make your nausea worse.
Recipes to try:
- Crazy Easy Asian Broth Soup – The Kitchen Girl
- 20 Minute Rotisserie Chicken and Rice Soup – Back to The Book Nutrition
- Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup – No. 2 Pencil
13. Avoid spicy foods.
You may need to avoid spicy foods during your pregnancy, especially if you have heartburn or spicy food intolerance when you are not pregnant. Spicy foods can increase your feelings of nausea and can increase heartburn. Heartburn during pregnancy is a combination of acid reflux from the increased abdominal pressure and the effect of the progesterone hormone on the smooth muscle lining the digestive tract. Progesterone relaxes smooth muscle leading to a slowing of the digestive tract and decreases the gastric emptying time.
Find the foods that work best for you. Maybe you can only tolerate spicy Mexican from your favorite take-out place…That’s OK!
14. Go for a walk and get some fresh air.
Sometimes a little distraction and fresh air can go a long way in helping you ease your feelings of morning sickness. The anticipation of waking up nauseous every morning does not help the situation.
If your nausea extends into the day, take a walk at lunchtime or a walk before dinner in the fresh evening air. It just might be enough to help you avoid nausea after you eat.
One of the most frustrating medical conditions pregnant patients deal with is hyperemesis gravidarum. This is when morning sickness is severe and can be associated with significant weight loss and electrolyte imbalances.
The management of hyperemesis gravidarum starts conservatively and in rare instances can require intravenous feeding (hyperalimentation) to sustain adequate caloric intake for mother and fetus.
Fortunately, hyperemesis gravidarum is not very common, though it does affect up to 60,000 women per year. The cause of hyperemesis gravidarum is presumed to be the same as morning sickness: however, the slowing of food digestion caused by progesterone may play a more significant role.
Perhaps other factors contribute to morning sickness that has not been identified. For now, the approach to treatment is to prevent nausea and maximize caloric intake.
What to read next:
- 20 Things To Do When You Find Out You Are Pregnant
- 10 Must-Know Tips For Your First Prenatal Visit
- 10 First Trimester Pregnancy Tips You’ll Be Glad You Know
We hope this article has helped you understand the current theories behind the cause of morning sickness.
As for the question: When Does Morning Sickness Start During Pregnancy? It varies tremendously between individual women and from one pregnancy to the next. Morning sickness often starts early around the 6th week of pregnancy and fortunately for most women resolves after the first trimester. For some, morning sickness can be prolonged and severe. When this occurs it is called hyperemesis gravidarum and often requires the administration of intravenous hydration and further management as medically necessary.
If you have morning sickness, don’t let it get ahead of you. Dehydration can occur and the cycle of nausea and vomiting can be hard to stop using home remedies. Contact your health care provider to make sure your body remains well hydrated until the symptoms of morning sickness start to subside.