Nausea During Pregnancy: Causes, Management and Concerns
Nausea during pregnancy is typically one of the most experienced and complained about symptoms that women report. Up to 70 percent of expectant mothers experience nausea at some point during early pregnancy. Not only is it known to be one of the early signs of pregnancy, but it is a symptom that is common throughout the first trimester, and sometimes even longer.
While nausea is definitely an uncomfortable feeling, the good news is that it is not harmful to you or your baby, and it is often perceived as an indication of a healthy pregnancy. Nausea is a key part of the common concern referred to as morning sickness.
Causes of nausea during pregnancy
The cause of nausea during pregnancy is not completely understood. However, it does appear to be linked to the production of the human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone. Commonly referred to as the pregnancy hormone, this is the hormone that the body begins to produce once the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining. Again, how it contributes to nausea is unknown, but because they both peak around the same time, they’re assumed to have a clear connection.
There are other theories as to what causes nausea during pregnancy as well. Some other contributing factors might be:
- Estrogen is another hormone that rises during early pregnancy and could contribute to queasiness.
- A sensitive stomach could be made worse while trying to adapt to the changes of pregnancy.
- Stress or fatigue is suggested to cause a physical reaction within the body, leading to nausea and vomiting.
When to expect nausea during pregnancy
Nausea typically starts within four to eight weeks of gestation and is expected to subside between 13 and 14 weeks. However, it can start earlier and can last longer. Also, not every woman will experience nausea the entire duration of the first trimester. It could last only a couple of weeks or come and go throughout the first few months.
Many refer to nausea during pregnancy as morning sickness, leading women to believe they will only experience nausea in the mornings. In fact, research shows that “morning sickness” actually occurs more often throughout the entire day, rather than just in the early hours.
Managing nausea during pregnancy
Treatment for and prevention of nausea during pregnancy are truly synonymous in regards to everyday self-care and home remedies. The following suggestions are beneficial to try as soon as you find out you are pregnant or if you are already pregnant and just looking for some relief.
Look at the steps below, and explore our guide to managing morning sickness.
To help prevent and treat nausea during pregnancy, try:
Home or natural remedies
- Avoiding foods and smells that trigger your nausea.
- Keeping soda crackers by your bed and eating a couple before getting up. Allow some time for digestion, and rise slowly once you are ready.
- Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day instead of three big meals.
- Drinking less water/fluids with your meals, and instead drink them between meals.
- Eating more dry, plain foods such as white rice, dry toast, or a plain baked potato instead of richer, creamier foods.
- Sucking on hard candy.
- Keeping rooms well ventilated or having a fan close by for easier breathing. If neither of these are possible, take time to go outside to get some fresh air.
- Getting plenty of rest; Listen to your body when you are feeling fatigued, and try lying down.
- Sniffing ginger or lemons, or drinking ginger ale or lemonade, which can help ease the feeling of nausea.
- Talking with your healthcare provider about the prenatal vitamins you are taking; having too much iron may cause nausea, and switching to a different vitamin could help.
- Asking your healthcare provider about taking a vitamin B-6 supplement, which has proven to help reduce nausea and vomiting.
Prescription Care for Nausea
Many women find that natural or home remedies do not help. It could be that some relief is experienced, but it may not be as much relief as you would like. The good news is that you can talk to your doctor to get a prescription that is specifically designed to treat nausea.
Concerns with nausea during pregnancy
If you are experiencing severe nausea and vomiting, and the above treatments do not appear to be helping, contact your doctor for further suggestions. While nausea during pregnancy can be normal, it can also point to a problem that needs to be addressed.
Examples of potential conditions seen with severe nausea are:
- Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which is a medical condition that causes you to lose essential nutrients needed during pregnancy.
- Molar Pregnancy, which occurs when an abnormal growth of tissue develops within the uterus.
Last Updated: 07/2015
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Beckmann, C., Ling, F. W., Barzanksy, B. M., Herbert, W., Laube, D. W., & Smith, R. P., Obstetrics and Gynecology (6th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Clinic, Mayo, Guide To A Healthy Pregnancy. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.