Morning sickness. It’s a frequent symptom of pregnancy, and perhaps the most curiously named. So-called “morning” sickness is a feeling of nausea and/or vomiting during pregnancy. Despite its name, morning sickness can strike any time of day or night. It’s a common symptom of early pregnancy, affecting up to 90% of people who are pregnant, says gynecologist Selena Zanotti, MD.
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Unfortunately, feelings of nausea and bouts of vomiting during your pregnancy may not disappear when the clock strikes noon. Queasiness, nausea and vomiting can happen throughout the day and night during your pregnancy.
“Morning sickness is a misnomer,” Dr. Zanotti says. “It is most common in the morning when women wake up and haven’t eaten anything, but it can occur at any point during the day and throughout the evening and night.”
Morning sickness is most likely to happen during your first trimester (roughly 14 weeks) of pregnancy, though it can last into your second trimester, and beyond. The time of day, frequency and intensity of morning sickness will vary from person to person and can change throughout your pregnancy.
The reason you may experience morning sickness at night, or during the day, may be related to changes in hormones that happen during pregnancy.
“Estrogen and progesterone increase in pregnancy and may affect the way foods and drinks move through your body. Also, hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, the hormone responsible for that positive pregnancy test) is at its peak in the first trimester, which is when you are most likely to experience pregnancy nausea and/or vomiting,” Dr. Zanotti explains.
Morning sickness may also have a genetic layer. If your birth parent or sibling experienced morning sickness in their pregnancies, you may have a higher likelihood of pregnancy nausea. It’s also common among people with a history of migraines, mood disorders or motion sickness.
Some studies suggest morning sickness may have protected our hunting-and-gathering ancestors. Feelings of nausea may have guarded early humans and their developing embryos by causing pregnant people to avoid potentially dangerous foods, like poisonous berries or spoiled meat.
During your pregnancy, morning sickness may be triggered by:
Some people say morning sickness at night is an early indication of your baby’s biological sex, but Dr. Zanotti says the science on this is shaky.
“Some small studies have shown a higher incidence of female fetuses being associated with morning sickness, but no large studies have been done to assess this or determine a reason why it would occur,” she notes.
To curb morning sickness at night, Dr. Zanotti suggests:
Heavy, spicy and greasy foods frequently set off nausea in people who are pregnant. Pay attention to how your body reacts to certain foods, and stick to the foods that work for you. Eat small meals regularly, and keep on hand some easy-on-the-stomach snacks, like crackers or nuts. Having healthy snacks next to your bed can make it easy to reach for a little something to quell pregnancy nausea at night and when you first wake up.
The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apples and toast) is easy on your stomach and can help you find some relief from morning sickness during the night or day. Sour foods and sour candies can do the trick, too. Try sucking on a slice of citrus — like lemon, lime or orange — when morning sickness takes over. Ginger is another popular way to find relief from morning sickness. You may find that ginger supplements, ginger tea, ginger candy or sucking on ginger root can help.
Lying flat, especially after eating, can cause the juices in your stomach to rise and leave you feeling queasy. To fight morning sickness at night, try propping up your top half (head to chest) with some extra pillows to keep inclined while you rest.
Prenatal vitamins are important during your pregnancy. They ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to keep you and your baby healthy.
But you may find that your vitamins contribute to pregnancy nausea, too. If you’re taking your prenatal vitamins before bed, try taking them in the morning to fight off morning sickness at night, and vice versa. Taking your vitamins with a small, healthy snack can help to curb feelings of pregnancy sickness, as well. It’s important, though, that you don’t stop taking prenatal vitamins or change vitamins without talking with your doctor.
The good news for you? Morning sickness — or night sickness, or even morning-noon-and-night sickness, as the case may be — likely isn’t dangerous for you or your developing baby, Dr. Zanotti reassures.
However, an estimated 1% to 3% of pregnancies experience hyperemesis gravidarum — next-level nausea and vomiting that can make it hard to carry on with normal life. If you have these symptoms, talk with your doctor:
“Severe morning sickness can cause dehydration,” Dr. Zanotti says. “If morning sickness is leading to weakness or dizziness, you may need intravenous fluids. If you can’t keep any food down or are experiencing significant weight loss, talk with your healthcare provider. There are medications that can help.”
While morning sickness can, unfortunately, come with the job of growing new life, there are steps you can take to make yourself more comfortable. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms if home remedies aren’t doing the trick, and rest assured that while morning sickness isn’t confined to the a.m., it’ll likely ease up in your second trimester.