Why Do Pregnant Women Get Morning Sickness?

Medically Reviewed on 9/7/2021
Morning sickness, though cause is unknown, is undoubtedly related to hormonal shifts and the increase in or presence of certain hormones.
Morning sickness, though cause is unknown, is undoubtedly related to hormonal shifts and the increase in or presence of certain hormones.

Most of us are aware that one of the surefire ways to tell if someone is pregnant is that they may have nausea. This phenomenon is called morning sickness. Read on to learn more about it and what may cause it. 

What is pregnancy morning sickness?

Morning sickness, feeling nauseous or vomiting, is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. It begins at around the sixth week of pregnancy and can happen at any time of day, not just in the morning. 

Morning sickness is widespread, and around half of all pregnant people experience it. It can be accompanied by vomiting, but it isn’t always. Usually, morning sickness will subside around the twelfth week of pregnancy. 

What are the symptoms of morning sickness?

As previously stated, morning sickness can happen at any time of the day or night. The symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to smells and foods
  • Retching or dry heaving

Most women will experience at least some type of these symptoms throughout their pregnancy. However, every pregnancy is different, and sometimes these symptoms might be more intense. They also may last for a longer or shorter time, depending on the situation.

What are the causes of morning sickness?

The causes of morning sickness are generally unknown. However, we do know that morning sickness is undoubtedly related to hormonal shifts and the increase in or presence of certain hormones. 

It has been found that the following hormones are particularly affected by pregnancy: 

Estrogen. This is a group of hormones that brings about female sexual traits. Usually, it is made in the ovaries, but it is also made in the placenta during pregnancy. In pregnancy, it regulates and maintains a healthy pregnancy. 

Progesterone. During pregnancy, your ovaries and placenta will produce this. It will thicken your uterine lining to support your baby. 

Human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG). Only made during pregnancy, this hormone is created in the placenta. It is usually present in the highest levels during the first trimester. Many people think that it plays a significant role in symptoms of nausea and vomiting. 

Human placental lactogen (hPL). This is another hormone made in the placenta. It supplies nutrition and support to the fetus. Additionally, it helps your milk glands create milk for breastfeeding

The mere presence of or spike in any of these hormones is generally thought to be the leading cause of morning sickness. However, other factors that are considered to play a role in morning sickness are:

  • Underlying medical conditions in the thyroid or liver
  • General susceptibility to motion sickness, migraines, or smells
  • Exposure to estrogen before pregnancy
  • Family history of morning sickness
  • Previous morning sickness from another pregnancy
  • Pregnancy with twins
  • Pregnancy with a girl
  • Low B16 in diet

Additionally, there is some evidence to suggest that factors like young maternal age, obesity, and stress level in mothers can also affect the amount of morning sickness you may have. 

While it may feel frustrating to feel nauseous regularly and not know why it is important to remember that it usually does not have any adverse health consequences. Morning sickness is also quite temporary. It will go away at some point. 


The first sign of pregnancy is most often: See Answer

How do I treat morning sickness?

Since the cause of morning sickness is not entirely known and also may just be a part of your body’s natural hormonal reaction to pregnancy, there is no treatment for morning sickness. Instead, pregnant women are encouraged to manage the symptoms of morning sickness.

Ways to manage morning sickness can include: 

  • Eating smaller and more frequent meals
  • Drinking more liquids throughout the day as opposed to bigger drinks less often
  • Cutting out fatty, spicy, or fried food
  • Asking other people to help with cooking to reduce exposure to strong smells
  • Eating a small and healthy snack before you fall asleep
  • Incorporating ginger and mint into your diet
  • Avoiding the foods that make you feel sick 
  • Avoiding brushing your teeth after you eat
  • Rehydrating after you throw up 

Morning sickness to look out for

Usually, morning sickness is nothing more than a feeling of nausea. Rarely does it progress to a point at which you are not able to hold food or liquids down. 

However, if it does, you must look out for dehydration. If you or any pregnant person around you has severe morning sickness, you or they may need to go to the hospital. There is a risk of dehydration that may need to be treated with an IV and maybe even a feeding tube. 

Signs that you should seek medical attention are:

  • Nausea that makes it impossible to eat or drink 
  • Vomiting so much you can’t keep food down
  • Brown or bloody vomit
  • Weight loss
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular urination
  • Fast heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Unpleasant body odor
  • Fruity mouth taste
  • Exhaustion

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Medically Reviewed on 9/7/2021

Mayo Clinic: “Morning sickness.”

Pregnancy, Birth, and Baby: “Morning sickness.”

Stanford Children’s Health: “Hormones During Pregnancy.”