When To Start Worrying About Morning Sickness

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
You were so excited to find out you were pregnant — and then the nausea hit. Or maybe that sudden need to barf was actually your first clue that you were expecting. Either way, morning sickness is a bummer. So how long do you have to deal with this nonsense? First off, as most people who have experienced it know, "morning sickness" is a total misnomer: It can strike at any time of day. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, most people begin to have morning sickness before week nine. Most of the time, it starts around week six (meaning about two weeks after your first missed period), and it usually goes away by week 14. But everyone experiences it differently — some people may feel super-nauseous but never actually come face-to-face with a toilet; others may puke regularly. It's also (sorry) totally possible for morning sickness to last a few weeks or even months past week 14. And, rarely, you may have morning sickness throughout your pregnancy. The good news is that it doesn't usually affect the health of your baby and isn't a sign that your baby is sick. In fact, some research indicates that morning sickness could be a good sign — it may be linked with a lower risk for miscarriage. But in some cases, things can get abnormally intense and may be cause for concern: If you're vomiting more than twice a day and feel nauseous for hours, that's considered "severe." And if you get to the point where you're having trouble keeping food and water down, you may start to actually lose weight, which may not be healthy for you or the baby. About 3% of pregnant women develop the most severe form of morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum, which may require hospitalization (you may remember Kate Middleton suffering from this). Women are typically diagnosed with this condition when they've lost 5% of their body weight and have other symptoms related to their vomiting, such as dehydration, lightheadedness, and headaches. Those who are pregnant with a female fetus or who have a family history of hyperemesis gravidarum are more likely to develop the condition. The treatment for morning sickness usually depends on how much it's ruining your life. So, on the milder end of the spectrum, you may just have to get through it. The Mayo Clinic recommends lifestyle changes, such as choosing foods that are low in fat and easy to digest and making sure your blood sugar doesn't drop too low — some sufferers feel better when they don't let themselves get too hungry. But if you're on the more severe side of things, definitely talk to your doctor about your options — they do exist! Adding vitamin B6 supplements, antihistamines, or anti-nausea medications to your regimen are usually the first steps. And if those don't work, there are prescription drug options too.

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