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Morning sickness - What are nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy?

BMJ Group Medical Reference


It's normal to get morning sickness in the first few months of pregnancy. But if you feel sick or vomit all the time, there are treatments that can help.

We've brought together the best research about nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy and weighed up the evidence about how to treat it. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

It's normal to feel sick, and sometimes be sick, in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. But if you are being sick all the time and can't hold food or fluids down, you may need treatment.

Key points about nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy

  • It's normal to feel sick or vomit during the first few months of pregnancy. About 8 out of 10 pregnant women do.

  • Nausea and vomiting won't usually harm you or your baby.

  • You may feel nauseous at any time of the day, not just in the mornings.

  • About 1 in 200 pregnant women have severe nausea and vomiting which can be dangerous to their health and their baby's health.

  • Nausea and vomiting usually stop after about 12 weeks of pregnancy. But 1 in 10 pregnant women still feel sick after 20 weeks.

What's normal

nvp-woman_default.jpgFeeling nauseous and being sick is often the first sign that you're pregnant. In fact, you may not have realised you were pregnant until you started to feel sick.

Almost all pregnant women have some nausea, although not everyone is actually sick. These symptoms usually begin about six weeks after the start of your last period.[1][2]

Even if you're sick two or three times a day, usually you can keep some food down and won't lose weight during the first few months of pregnancy.

A survey of 1,000 pregnant women in the first half of their pregnancy gives us some idea of how you may feel during your pregnancy.[1]

  • About 6 out of 10 pregnant women feel sick every day.

  • About half of all pregnant women are sick, but only about 1 in 5 are sick every day.

  • Although nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is often called 'morning sickness', only about 1 of 5 women say that their symptoms stop by noon.

  • Many women feel sick or are sick at any time of the day, although they usually feel worse in the morning.

  • The earlier in your pregnancy that symptoms start (for example, about the fourth week), the more often you are likely to have them.

Triggers for sickness in early pregnancy

Many women notice that certain things make them feel worse, or 'trigger' their symptoms. Some common triggers are:[3][4]

  • Smelling certain odours, especially coffee, perfumes, cigarette smoke, and petrol

  • Cooking and eating certain foods, especially meat, fatty meals, or spicy meals

  • Becoming very tired

  • Feeling anxious or worried

  • Changing position quickly (for example, standing up too fast).

We know very little about why some women feel sick in early pregnancy and others don't. But it's nothing to worry about. In fact, women who do feel sick are less likely to have a miscarriage than women who don't feel sick.[5]

1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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