Morning sickness: Is it a sign of good health?

A young pregnant woman experiencing morning sickness

Morning sickness is one of the most feared side effects that comes with being pregnant. The feeling of nausea and vomiting can be miserable, but you aren’t alone. Morning sickness is very common and affects the majority of pregnancies, especially in the first trimester.

Approximately 50% to 80% of pregnant people will experience nausea, and about 50% will experience vomiting with their pregnancy.

Why does morning sickness happen?

There’s no exact reason as to why women experience morning sickness.

It’s most likely due to the rise in two hormones during pregnancy: human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and estrogen. Human chorionic gonadotropin is secreted by the placenta, which nourishes the egg after it’s been fertilized.

This hormone secretion peaks in early pregnancy when symptoms are typically at their worst.

Estrogen levels increase throughout pregnancy, but the largest jump in levels can be seen in the first trimester. It plays a key role in helping the fetus grow and mature.

Is morning sickness a good sign?

Having morning sickness, or not, doesn’t specifically mean anything good or bad about a pregnancy.

Studies have shown a lower rate of miscarriage in women with mild or moderate morning sickness. This likely reflects healthy hCG production.

Twin pregnancies can sometimes come along with worse nausea/vomiting in pregnancy because of additional hormone production in these gestations.

If you’re not experiencing morning sickness, this doesn’t mean you have an unhealthy pregnancy. If you have questions or concerns regarding your morning sickness, you should contact your doctor.

Experiencing morning sickness beyond the first trimester

Morning sickness typically resolves after the first trimester, as this is when hCG peaks.

Some women may still experience nausea and vomiting after the first trimester. In this case, I recommend speaking with your doctor, as other conditions may be playing a role in your symptoms, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is common in the second and third trimesters due to increased pressure on your stomach. This may require medication for symptom management.

What you can do to improve symptoms

  • Eating small meals and staying hydrated can help nausea.
  • Avoid oily, spicy or citrus foods, as this can worsen symptoms.
  • Taking a vitamin B6 supplement can be useful in decreasing the severity of nausea.
  • If you’re experiencing a lingering bad taste in your mouth or heartburn, then a trial of famotidine (Pepcid) can be useful. Before starting medications, consult your doctor.

Does having severe pregnancy nausea mean anything about the health of your baby?

If your symptoms are affecting your ability to complete your daily activities, then it should be discussed with your doctor. You may require prescription medication.

There are several nausea medications that are safe to prescribe in pregnancy.

Also, if you have been unable to eat/drink for 24 hours or more, then I recommend seeking emergency care, as you may require IV fluids in addition to medication.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a severe form of morning sickness that often requires hospital evaluation and administration of IV fluids to maintain hydration during pregnancy.

This is more common in certain pregnancies, including twin pregnancies.

While some studies have shown higher rates of low birth weight and premature infants in pregnancies affected by hyperemesis gravidarum, this illness doesn’t typically affect the health of your baby, as pregnancies are very resilient.

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