Nausea and Vomiting

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Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are very common pregnancy discomforts. Nausea affects the vast majority of pregnant women and can occur at any time during the day. Feelings of nausea tend to disappear after 14 weeks or so. Vomiting affects around half of all pregnant women and can range from mild to severe. These symptoms tend to peak around weeks 11-13 and then lessen, disappearing around 16-12 weeks. Severe vomiting can be a serious condition. Symptoms of nausea and vomiting are worsened by tiredness and hunger.


Nausea is the feeling of impending vomiting. Nausea affects about 70% to 85% of pregnant women and it certainly isn’t limited to the morning! Most women who are affected, suffer it throughout the entire day. On average pregnancy nausea lasts 34.5 days so with a bit of luck you should start to feel better once you reach the 14 weeks mark.


Vomiting in pregnancy can vary from mild to severe. Severe vomiting can become debilitating and even potentially life-threatening and is a leading cause of hospital admission during pregnancy.

Mild vomiting is certainly not pleasant and affects about 50% of pregnant women. It tends to appear in the 5th week, peaks around 11 – 13 weeks, after which the worst is over and hopefully is all done by 16 – 20 weeks.

It is common to feel nauseous on waking in the morning and then vomit once out of bed. Actual vomiting tends to taper off during the day, though you might feel nauseous all day.

Women often report an increased in their sense of smell, and this sensitivity to odours can trigger feelings of nausea, leading to aversions to some foods.

Moderate vomiting

Moderate vomiting is more serious and involves several episodes a day, often after meals. Moderate vomiting can lead to weight loss and ketonuria but this does not seem to cause any problems for the baby. You will probably need medical attention if you are affected by moderate vomiting during pregnancy.

Severe vomiting or Hyperemesis Gravidarum

This is a pathological condition involving unrelenting, severe vomiting in pregnancy. It affects about 0.3 – 2.0% of women and is more common in women who are younger, non-smokers and non-Caucasian.S

It is diagnosed by excluding all other possible causes and is the leading reason for hospital admission during pregnancy. Pregnant women experiencing severe vomiting can be affected by significant weight loss, dehydration and even organ and nerve damage. However, babies tend to fare well, unless the condition is very severe and then growth and development can be affected.

The good news is that there may be a link between the condition and bacterial gastric infection, which responds well to antibiotic therapy.

If you are experiencing moderate or severe vomiting, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Why do pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting?

There isn’t a definitive answer as to why pregnant women experiencing nausea and vomiting. Although there are a couple of theories:

  • The reduced energy intake due to vomiting creates a change in the way your body processes carbohydrates. Your insulin production drops and this diverts the glucose in your blood to the placenta and baby’s circulation, giving the baby more nourishment in the first trimester.
  • Nausea and vomiting enable your body to expel foods which may contain harmful toxins and micro-organisms that trigger food aversions in pregnancy.

What you can do to help yourself?

Mild nausea and vomiting

  • Medication is usually not required, however rest is, as tiredness can make the symptoms worse.
  • Try eating small meals more frequently, 6 times a day instead of 3. These can be supplemented with light snacks such as fruit, dry biscuits, low-fat yoghurt.
  • Avoid foods which are high in fat or have a strong smell.
  • Avoid drinking tea and coffee with meals as these can inhibit your absorption of the nutrients from your diet.
  • If you are experiencing nausea in the mornings, try to eat something light before you get out of bed e.g. a piece of toast, crackers, banana or fruit juices.
  • If your nausea is worst during the evenings, get someone else to prepare the evening meal or cook the meal in advance, at a point in the day where you have more energy.
  • Maintain your fluid intake – this is very important if you are experiencing vomiting. A milky drink at bedtime and carbonated drinks, such as soda or non-alcoholic ginger ale have been reported to alleviate symptoms.
  • Complimentary therapies – Vitamin B6 and ginger are often useful. It is important not to exceed the recommended upper limit for Vitamin B6 which is 1.9mg/day. Studies of the effects of acupuncture and acupressure on vomiting show that it is more effective than changes in diet or lifestyle.

Moderate to severe vomiting

If you are experiencing moderate or severe vomiting, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.







is the impending feeling that you are going to vomit. This affects the majority of pregnant women. Diminishes at around 14 weeks.








Affects around 50% of pregnant women. Severe vomiting will require medical assistance. Diminishes at around 16-20 weeks.








Get plenty of rest. Eat small meals, often. Avoid caffiene and fatty or strong smelling foods.