You’re pregnant — congrats! As you’re likely learning, there are lots of things about growing a tiny human that no one bothered to share with you. Such as the little-known detail that morning sickness can happen at any time of day — or night.
Sure, you might’ve expected to feel a little queasy upon waking in the morning. But nausea that’s not confined to the morning hours? It’s a thing, and lots of people experience it.
Here’s what you should know and how to keep night sickness from totally derailing your day, plus when run-of-the-mill pukeyness becomes a cause for concern.
Morning sickness, or good old nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, is a super common side effect of pregnancy. But whoever named it (probably a guy?) obviously never dealt with it themselves, since it can strike whenever.
You’re just as likely to get hit with a wave o’ quease in the morning as you are in the afternoon or at night.
As for why it happens? Experts don’t fully understand, but the thinking goes that it all comes down to rising levels of hormones like progesterone and hCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin.
Almost every pregnant person will experience some degree of morning sickness at some point. Most of the time it’s just annoying and won’t actually affect your health or the health of your baby, though you do want be smart about avoiding dehydration. (More on that in a bit.)
But things can sometimes get extreme. Hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness, happens when the nausea and vomiting is bad enough to cause a pregnant person to lose more than 5 percent of their prepregnancy weight and become dehydrated.
Thankfully it’s pretty rare, affecting around 3 percent of pregnancies.
Morning sickness (or afternoon sickness, or night sickness!) usually occurs early on in pregnancy and eventually fades away. Though the timeline isn’t exactly the same for everyone, you can generally count on the following…
During your first trimester
Morning sickness tends to start here. Often it sneaks up on you between weeks 4 and 6, and peaks during the second half of the first trimester, between weeks 8 and 12.
Most people find that the nausea lasts for a short period each day, and they might puke once or twice (or sometimes never). But others deal with morning sickness for hours on end or seemingly round the clock.
During your second trimester
It’s common (though not guaranteed) for morning sickness to start easing up, though the specifics can vary. For some lucky folks the nausea starts to dissipate as early as week 12 to 14, while for others, it can hang on until the middle or end of the second trimester — aka week 28.
During your third trimester
Your appetite might still be off, but now it’s likely for a different reason. With your ever-growing baby taking up more and more space in your abdominal cavity, there’s simply less room for food to sit in your stomach.
You might find you feel full after just a few bites of food or not be interested in food as much overall. Heartburn can be a thing these days too.
As for actual morning sickness? It’s not typically a problem during the third trimester, but everyone’s different. And some women, especially those dealing with hyperemesis gravidarum, might find themselves dealing with nausea until they give birth.
It’s unlikely that you can stop morning sickness from happening altogether. But there are plenty of strategies for managing the queasiness, no matter what time of day it tends to flare up.
Adjust your eating
Weird as it sounds, an empty stomach can actually make you more nauseous, so try to have five or six mini meals so you’ve always got some fuel in the tank. Fruits, nuts, crackers, and toast tend to be easier to tolerate than heavy fare or stuff with a strong smell like meat, eggs, or veggies.
Another pro tip? Keep some nuts or crackers on your nightstand and scarf them down when you first wake up to keep that empty-stomach-queasy feeling from striking when you step out of bed.
You can even have a quick snack when you wake up to pee in the middle of the night to help prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low before morning arrives.
ID those triggers and steer clear
It’s common for spicy, greasy, or strong-smelling foods (hey, roasted broccoli!) to trigger nausea waves. But everyone’s different, and it’s entirely possible to be nauseated by a food that you normally love.
Just try to pay attention to what sends your symptoms skyrocketing and avoid them as much as possible.
Go for the ginger
It’s a proven nausea-fighter during pregnancy. You can totally sip ginger tea or suck on ginger candies, but powdered ginger capsules might be the most potent.
Large-scale studies show that ginger — in whole or capsule form — seems to be safe to take during pregnancy, but of course, it’s never a bad idea to run the remedy by your OB/GYN or midwife first.
Water can sometimes be unappealing when you’re nauseous. But getting dehydrated can actually make queasiness worse, so strive for 8 to 12 cups of H2O a day. If cold water makes your stomach churn, you might find that warm water or herbal tea goes down a little easier.
Take your vitamins
Taking a prenatal before and during pregnancy can lower the odds for severe nausea. Only problem is, some pills can actually mess with your stomach. If that’s the case for you, try taking your prenatal before bed or with a meal or snack.
You might want to talk with your midwife or OB/GYN about taking a vitamin B6 supplement too, since popping 25 milligrams every 8 hours has been shown to keep symptoms in check.
Your internal thermostat definitely runs on high during pregnancy, and feeling hot and stuffy can make nausea worse. Stick with clothes that are loose and breathable and crank the AC or run a fan.
It might sound odd, but studies have found that lemon aromatherapy can help calm the tides of your upset stomach. Grab some lemon essential oil, add a few drops to a diffuser, and breathe deep for relief.
Morning sickness is a totally normal part of pregnancy, and the nausea and vomiting most people experience isn’t a cause for concern. But severe morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum can lead to dehydration, which can be harmful to both you and your baby.
The key to staving dehydration off, of course, is by drinking plenty of water — for pregnant people, that means 8 to 12 cups a day.
If you can’t stomach the thought of plain cold water, try drinking it warm or adding flavorings like lemon or lime, fresh herbs, or sliced ginger. Another option? Try sipping a sports drink. It’s hydrating like water, and the added sodium and minerals can help combat electrolyte loss.
If you’re having trouble keeping any water down and are experiencing signs of dehydration (more on those below), you may need to go to the hospital to get fluids through an IV.
Aside from drinking enough water, listen closely to your body and resist the urge to push yourself. If you’re feeling worn out, take a nap or try to get to sleep early. If you’re feeling lightheaded or dizzy, sit down.
Some people say morning sickness at night means you’ve got a girl on the way. Others say it’s a sure sign you’re having a boy. So who’s right?
Turns out, there’s a little bit of research supporting both sides. One small study found that women carrying girls tended to have more severe morning sickness than those carrying boys.
But another found that morning sickness was slightly more common in women carrying boys compared to those carrying girls.
Which ultimately means that you can’t really count on morning sickness to tell you much of anything about the sex of your baby. It’s a bummer, especially during that first trimester when it’s too early to actually find out.
But if you’re dying to know, well, you’ll end up getting the answer before you know it — and hey! It’s great practice for all the patience you’ll need to exercise once you actually have a kid.
You should pretty much expect to feel nauseous and even have some mild vomiting at some point during your pregnancy, particularly early on.
But you definitely want to give your OB/GYN or midwife a heads up if your morning sickness is bad enough that it’s legit interfering with your life or putting you at risk for becoming dehydrated.
Signs it’s time to call the doc include:
- You’re only urinating a little bit, and the urine is dark in color.
- You’re not urinating at all.
- You can’t keep any food or liquids down.
- You’re losing weight.
- You feel dizzy or faint when you stand up.
- Your heart feels like it’s racing or pounding.
- Your morning sickness is getting in the way of everyday activities.
Dealing with severe morning sickness can be a little scary, but try not to worry too much. The dehydration can be treated with IV fluids, and your doctor or midwife might recommend managing the nausea with over-the-counter (OTC) meds like vitamin B6 or doxylamine, or prescription anti-nausea drugs.