Around seven in 10 pregnant women will experience nausea and vomiting. There’s no known cause for it, although it’s thought to be a reaction to the hormonal changes a woman experiences during pregnancy.
Some women can develop a severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum, which requires specialist treatment in some cases.
So, how long can you expect morning sickness to last for and how do you know when it’s time to visit your doctor?
When Does Morning Sickness Happen?
Despite its name, morning sickness – also known as pregnancy sickness – can occur at any time of the day or night. It’s common to experience feelings of nausea or actually vomiting in the first trimester and this can even be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. Symptoms can vary from feeling a little queasy to actually being sick.
For most women, morning sickness usually clears up by weeks 16 to 20 of pregnancy, according to the NHS.
What Treatment Is There For Morning Sickness?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive cure and every woman is different, meaning you may need to experiment to find ways to ease your symptoms.
There’s some evidence that foods containing ginger can help to ease nausea and women, including the Duchess of Cambridge, have been trying this tactic for decades.
The NHS recommends eating small, frequent meals of plain foods that are high in carbohydrate and low in fat (such as bread, rice, crackers and pasta), plus avoiding any foods or smells that make you feel sick.
Although you should aim for a healthy diet in general during pregnancy, the NCT advises you not to worry about hitting your kale quota if you’re experiencing morning sickness. “If toast is all you can eat, go with the toast,” the website states. “Keeping food down will help with the nausea so prioritise this over making sure you order that salad.”
Other than that, your best bet with regular morning sickness is to put your feet up, get an early night and try to relax as much as possible.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Being sick multiple times per day or having difficulty keeping even small amounts of food down are both potential signs of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).
Unlike regular pregnancy sickness, HG often persists past the first trimester and, in some cases, doesn’t clear up completely until the baby is born. It’s important to seek medical help if you think you’re suffering from HG, because there’s a chance you may not get enough fluids in your body (dehydration) or enough nutrients from your diet (malnourishment), affecting both you and your baby.
What Treatment Is Available For Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Although there’s no cure for HG, there are medications you can take throughout pregnancy that should relieve symptoms. In some cases, you may be admitted to hospital where treatment can include intravenous fluids, given through a drip.
The NHS advises you to call your GP or midwife immediately if you have dark-coloured urine or haven’t had a wee in more than eight hours; are unable to keep food or fluids down for 24 hours; feel severely weak, dizzy or faint when standing up; have tummy (abdominal) pain; have pain or blood when you wee; or you have lost weight.
The charity Pregnancy Sickness Support has more information, as well as an advice line dedicated to morning sickness and HG.