What to Do When Morning Sickness Doesn’t Go Away

January 31, 2024  By: Women's Health Team

A woman experiencing morning sickness

Content medically reviewed by Caitlin Pandolfo, MD

If you're newly pregnant, you can already tell your body is going through lots of changes thanks to pregnancy hormones. One of the most common experiences of early pregnancy is morning sickness.

"Between 50% to 80% of pregnant people will have first trimester morning sickness," said Dr. Caitlin Pandolfo, OB/GYN at Essentia Health. "It will usually go away at 14 to 16 weeks of pregnancy, but less than 3% of people will experience severe nausea and vomiting throughout their entire pregnancy."

What Is Morning Sickness?

Morning sickness can cause nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. While some pregnant women may only experience morning sickness shortly after waking up, it can happen at any time of the day. This pregnancy symptom is thought to be caused by rising hormone levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

If you have mild morning sickness, a few simple tips may help:

  • Avoid foods that are fatty, spicy, or highly acidic.
  • Don't let yourself get hungry, but don't overeat. Light snacking throughout the day can help reduce nausea.
  • Eat a healthy diet with whole grains and proteins so you’ll stay full longer.
  • Sip on ginger tea or eat ginger chews.
  • Try sniffing a lemon or alcohol wipe to reduce nausea.

Prolonged Morning Sickness Can Be Serious

Most people with morning sickness have a healthy pregnancy. Prolonged morning sickness can cause problems if you become dehydrated or keep losing weight.

"Hyperemesis gravidarum is severe morning sickness that can last your entire pregnancy," Dr. Pandolfo said. "There's not a lot of great evidence or research into why it happens to certain people and why it doesn't happen to others. Because you had it in one pregnancy doesn’t mean it's going to happen in the next, but you're at higher risk."

Other risk factors for hyperemesis gravidarum include:

  • Being overweight.
  • Being pregnant for the first time.
  • Being pregnant with twins or triplets.
  • Having a history of migraines or motion sickness.
  • Having a family history of severe morning sickness.

You could have hyperemesis gravidarum if you have trouble keeping any food or drink down. Throwing up four or more times a day, losing weight or being constantly dehydrated are signs you need medical care for your morning sickness.

"Making sure your electrolytes are normal and preventing dehydration are the first line of treatment for severe morning sickness," Dr. Pandolfo said. "Many moms come in needing fluids, and we will check for ketones in the urine and other signs of severe vomiting."

Talk to Your OB/GYN About Your Morning Sickness

No matter how far along you are in your pregnancy, speak with your OB/GYN when you experience nausea or vomiting.

"A lot of times, we can address morning sickness or make it more tolerable," Dr. Pandolfo said. "There are no bonus points for suffering through pregnancy. We can give you a prescription that may make it a lot easier to eat and drink and stay hydrated."

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