If you’re pregnant and feel nauseous or vomit, you’re not the only one. In fact, 50% of pregnant women throw up. These symptoms, called morning sickness, can happen at any time.

There are factors that make some women more likely to feel sick. These include being older, less educated, or black. Having a low income, twins, or a history of motion sickness also plays a role. But, we do have ways to help ease these feelings.

Overview of Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy

Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy are often called “morning sickness.” They happen to about 74% of pregnant women. The severity and when they happen can be different for each person. For example, while only 1.8% might feel this way just in the morning, about 80% deal with it all day long.

Prevalence and Symptoms

About 74% of women who are pregnant feel nausea and/or throw up. Half of these might only have the vomiting part. Although we call it “morning sickness,” it’s not always just in the morning. How strong it is and how long it lasts can change a lot between women.

Risk Factors

Some women face a higher risk of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. This includes those who are less educated, older, or of black racial background. Those with lower incomes, multiple babies, or a history of miscarriages are also at risk. Having had motion sickness, migraines, or feeling sick from birth control with estrogen can make it more likely too.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a serious condition with severe nausea and vomiting. It can lead to dehydration and other health issues, often needing hospital care. Around 1% of pregnant women experience this. It’s marked by constant vomiting, severe dehydration, and losing over 5% of their body weight.

Some things can make this condition more likely. This includes if a woman has had it before, or if there are certain complications in the pregnancy. Surprisingly, the risk might be much higher if the baby is a girl.

symptoms of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy

Causes and Pathophysiology

Doctors still don’t fully understand why some pregnant women feel sick. Yet, it seems high levels of a hormone called hCG may play a part. For example, women with a lot of hCG might feel more nauseous. This includes those expecting twins, twins, having a certain mole type, or with babies who have Down syndrome.

Estrogen and progesterone could add to the mix. They might also make a woman feel queasy during pregnancy.

Other Potential Etiologies

Things like placental prostaglandins or serotonin levels could be a cause. So could thyroid problems or even your immune system acting up. Infections like Helicobacter pylori and how your stomach moves food could also play a part. More studies are needed to know for sure why some women feel so sick when they’re pregnant.

Causes and Pathophysiology

Differential Diagnosis

When dealing with nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, a wide range of causes must be considered. Common issues like cholecystitis, gastroenteritis, and migraines may often be the reason. Yet, there are also rare conditions needing attention.

Common Causes

The basic reasons for feeling sick and throwing up while pregnant are things like cholecystitis and gastroenteritis. These, along with reflux and migraines, often go away with the right care.

Less Common Causes

Less usual suspects for nausea during pregnancy include certain diseases, bad reactions to drugs, and more. Issues like hyperthyroidism or a molar pregnancy require careful checking and special treatments.

Uncommon Causes

Then there are the truly uncommon origins of nausea, such as acute fatty liver or Addison’s disease. These could also come from severe conditions like appendicitis or brain tumors. While rare, swift and expert care is crucial for these cases.

differential diagnosis

Evaluation and Diagnosis

For women experiencing regular nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, not much stands out during a physical check-up. If a woman does show other signs like a sore abdomen or a fever, doctors should look for different causes.

If a woman is severely dehydrated and shows symptoms like fainting when standing up (orthostasis), she might have hyperemesis gravidarum. This condition is more severe than usual morning sickness.

Women with simple morning sickness don’t need lab tests if their check-up looks normal and they don’t seem dehydrated. But in cases where it’s not clear what’s wrong, doctors might do some lab tests. For instance, they might look at blood counts, urine, liver function, the thyroid, and pregnancy hormones. This helps to rule out other issues and find the right diagnosis.

evaluation and diagnosis

Maternal and Fetal Outcomes

If a pregnancy has normal nausea and vomiting, it could mean less risk of miscarriage. There might also be fewer cases of preterm delivery, baby death, and growth problems. But if a woman loses weight early on, especially with hyperemesis gravidarum, her baby might be small or have low weight at birth.

For women whose nausea and vomiting are hard to treat and cause weight loss, there are more risks. These include problems for the baby like growth issues and death, and for the mother like preeclampsia and serious complications tied to vomiting. These complications may range from esophageal rupture to pneumothorax and more.

maternal and fetal outcomes

nausea and vomiting in pregnancy treatment

Nonpharmacologic Therapies

Many non-drug treatments help with pregnancy sickness. These include acupuncture, acupressure, and herbs. Doctors also recommend these. But, their benefits are not fully proven. They do help pregnant women feel better understood, though.

Dietary Modifications

Changing what you eat can ease morning sickness. It’s good to avoid big meals. Try eating foods that are easy on the stomach like bread, crackers, and cereal. Foods like eggs, tofu, and lean meat are also good. So are peanut butter, fruits, and veggies. It might help to stay away from foods that smell strong and are high in protein or liquid. Yet, not much proof says this works.

Lifestyle Adjustments

At first, doctors recommend simple dietary changes for morning sickness. This means avoiding heavy meals and opting for easy-to-digest, mild foods. The advice is also to steer clear of foods with intense odors, as well as those high in protein and liquids. Still, not many studies back up these tips.

In the past, we thought morning sickness might be tied to mental health. Conditions like depression and stress were suggested. But new science says they might not be linked after all.

nausea and vomiting in pregnancy treatment

Pharmacologic Therapies

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, helps with nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. You can take 10 to 25 mg every six to eight hours. It works better than a fake pill for easing nausea but might not stop vomiting as much.

Using too much pyridoxine (more than 500 mg per day) could harm your nerves. But a study among pregnant women found that over 50 mg a day was okay for the baby.

Doxylamine-Pyridoxine Combination

Combining pyridoxine with doxylamine has a big impact on NVP. This duo can cut down nausea and vomiting by 70%. Early worries about birth defects have since been dismissed in a big review.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists backs using doxylamine 10 mg and pyridoxine 10 mg tablets. This recommendation is for the first three months of pregnancy. In 2013, Diclegis, a special form of this combo, was approved for pregnant women with nausea and vomiting.

Alternative and Complementary Therapies

Many expecting moms use alternative methods to handle nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture, acupressure, and ginger are popular choices. They’re seen as safe and natural by these moms.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupuncture and acupressure are often used for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. The findings on how well they work are mixed. Yet, they might still help some women, or it could be in their mind. There’s no evidence showing they’re harmful during pregnancy.


Studies have looked a lot at ginger for easing nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Ginger seems to work better than a fake pill in two studies. In four others, its effect matched that of vitamin B6. Doctors suggest using ginger (125 to 250 mg every six hours), ginger tea, or ginger ale to feel better.

Managing Severe Cases

Some women may need more help if they can’t stop feeling sick and throwing up while pregnant. They might have to go to the hospital. There, doctors will give them fluids through a vein to replace what they’ve lost. This is critical to avoid a severe illness called hyperemesis gravidarum that can be dangerous. It causes ongoing throwing up, severe lack of fluids, problems with body salts, and losing a lot of weight.

Intravenous Fluid and Electrolyte Replacement

When women are really sick from pregnancy and can’t keep anything down, they might need help through a vein. This helps fix dehydration and body salt issues. Getting the right treatment quickly can stop bad problems like tearing in the throat, bleeding in the eyes, vomiting blood, and even a collapsed lung.

Enteral or Parenteral Nutrition

Sometimes, when pregnant women get very, very sick, they might not be able to eat or drink enough. For these hard cases, the hospital might have to feed them another way. This makes sure both mom and baby still get the nutrients they need. It’s a step taken for those who can’t eat or drink on their own, and it’s done to avoid dangerous health issues due to extreme throwing up.

Preconception Counseling

If you often feel nauseous during pregnancy, or if you’ve had hyperemesis gravidarum, preconception counseling is for you. This service helps spot and handle any risks early. Also, your specific treatment options can be discussed.

Tackling these issues before getting pregnant is smart. Working with your doctor, you can create a plan to lessen or control the sickness in your next pregnancy. This step-by-step approach aims for a smoother, more enjoyable pregnancy.

Patient Education and Support

Helping patients understand and cope with nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is vital. We need to acknowledge the stress these symptoms bring and provide tips for making life easier.

It’s key to talk about how common and when these symptoms show up. Most pregnant people face nausea and vomiting, starting at 5-6 weeks and getting better by 16-18 weeks. Yet, for some, it goes on longer, possibly even until they give birth.

Telling patients about what might make their symptoms worse is also crucial. This could be things like skipping meals, not enough sleep, strong smells, or hot and sticky weather. Giving tips to avoid these triggers can offer some help.

But let’s not forget the emotional side. Dealing with sickness during pregnancy can be very hard. It’s important to listen, share coping strategies, and suggest leaning on loved ones.

Encouraging open talks with the doctor is a must. Patients should share how often and how bad they feel, what’s worked, and what worries them. This helps doctors pick the best treatments to ease their suffering.

Monitoring and Follow-up

Watching closely and keeping track of women with nausea and vomiting in pregnancy are very important. This is especially vital for those with tough symptoms. It’s key to check the hydration, electrolytes, and weight of the patient often. Always staying in touch with the healthcare team helps make sure they get the right care on time.

Some patients might not get better with just medicine at home. They might need to go to the hospital. There, they can get fluids through a vein and other medicines as well. This helps fix dehydration and any problems with their electrolytes. It’s also important to note that long-term use of a lot of vitamin B6 can cause issues. So, those taking a lot of it should be watched closely too.

There’s not a lot of human information about if taking too much pyridoxine is bad for the baby. But what data we have shows it’s probably safe. For example, taking pyridoxine up to 510 mg a day in the first three months of pregnancy didn’t seem to cause big problems. Also, studies in animals showed that a big amount of pyridoxine didn’t harm the babies.

It’s very beneficial for the healthcare team to see the patient often. This helps them to make any needed changes in the treatment. Also, it ensures that the mom and baby are doing well. This focused care can make the pregnancy better for those struggling with nausea and vomiting.


Nausea and vomiting happen a lot during pregnancy. But, there are ways to feel better. You can stay healthy and feel well with the right knowledge and support.

Many options are available, from simple ones you can buy to specific treatments for tough cases. You and your healthcare provider can pick what’s best for you. They will consider how bad your symptoms are and what you need specifically.

You’re not on your own in dealing with this. With support and the right care, you can handle feeling sick and focus on the good parts of expecting a baby. Being active in your treatment and talking openly with your healthcare team helps a lot. It makes this part of your pregnancy easier to face, with hope.


What is the prevalence of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?

Up to 74% of pregnant women face nausea and vomiting. Half of these women only experience vomiting. It’s important to know that “morning sickness” can happen at any time of the day.

What are the risk factors for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?

Certain factors make some women more likely to have nausea and vomiting. These include being older, less educated, or of a black race. Also, lower income or having had multiple pregnancies, including miscarriages, increase the risk. If she’s had motion sickness in the past or migraines, or if nausea was a side effect of birth control with estrogen, it also raises the chances.

What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It’s rare, affecting about 1% of pregnant women. This condition is so serious it can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Women with hyperemesis gravidarum often end up in the hospital because of these symptoms.

What are the potential causes of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?

Doctors are still unsure about the exact causes of pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. Yet, there are some clues. The levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and the size of the placenta seem to play a role. This suggests that the body’s reaction to products of the placenta could be at the heart of these symptoms. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone might also be involved.

What are the common causes of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?

The most common causes of these symptoms in pregnancy are not well understood. Known causes include some medical conditions like cholecystitis and migraine headaches. Gastrointestinal issues like gastroenteritis and gastroesophageal reflux can also contribute.

What are the less common and uncommon causes of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?

There are some rarer reasons behind nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. These include diseases of the biliary tract, hepatitis, and hyperthyroidism. Conditions like peptic ulcer disease and preeclampsia are also in this list. Some really uncommon causes involve very specific, serious conditions, such as acute fatty liver of pregnancy or Addison’s disease. These are extremely rare but can lead to symptoms of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

What is the importance of preconception counseling for women with a history of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?

Preconception counseling is key for women with such histories. It helps to identify and manage potential risk factors early. And it allows women to learn about available treatment options beforehand.

How can patient education and support help in managing nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?

Education and support are crucial for managing these symptoms. They help women understand their condition and learn how to cope. This support can make a big difference in a challenging period.

What is the importance of monitoring and follow-up for women with nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?

Monitoring and follow-up are very important for these women. Especially for those with severe symptoms. Regular checks on hydration, electrolytes, and weight, along with good communication with their healthcare team, are needed. This ensures they get the right help at the right time.

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