Pregnancy sickness – or morning sickness – is thought to be a reaction to high levels of pregnancy hormones, in particular hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). These hormones are at their highest during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Pregnancy sickness is often at its worst when you first wake up, which is why it is called morning sickness, but it can happen at any time of day.
For most women, the first 12 weeks are the worst. After that you should slowly start to feel better. By around 16-20 weeks, you will probably find that the sickness has completely gone away.
How can I cope with pregnancy sickness at work?
If you’re being sick a lot and feel very ill, it can be hard to cope at work. You might not feel ready to tell people you’re pregnant just yet either, which makes it more complicated.
If you feel very ill, it’s probably a good idea to tell your manager at work that you’re pregnant. Once they know, your employer has to make any changes that are needed to protect your health. If you do decide to formally tell them about your pregnancy, this is a good time to talk about any changes to your work that might help. For example, you might need easier access to a toilet. Or if kitchen or canteen food smells are setting off your sickness, maybe you could move somewhere else until you feel better.
Try not to worry too much about people knowing you are pregnant – it’s more important to look after yourself.
What if my morning sickness is really bad?
If you can’t keep any food or drink down, or you are worried at all about pregnancy sickness, see your midwife or doctor. You may have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, which means excessive sickness and vomiting of pregnancy.
There are several medicines that are safe to use in pregnancy. If you’re too sick to keep anything down, they can be given by injection or suppository. You may also be prescribed a vitamin B supplement, which can help as well.
If you are vomiting several times a day, or not able to eat and drink at all without being sick, you may be dehydrated, which is why you feel so bad. One in 50 women with severe sickness in early pregnancy will need to go into hospital for treatment. This will usually be for just a few days.
Morning sickness tips
These ideas have not been scientifically proved to work, and they may not work for you. But they have helped some women, and so you might like to try them out:
Eat little and often. Try six small meals a day.
Rest. Tired can make the sickness worse.
Avoid foods with lots of sugar or saturated fats – such as sweets, chocolate and red meat.
Carbohydrates, such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, can be easier to eat.
Keep away from ‘triggers’ – food or smells that make you feel sick.
Have a small snack before getting up in the morning.
Try foods or drinks that contain ginger in them.
Try wearing acupressure bands throughout the day.
- Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ Midwifery, 14th edition, London, Ballière Tindall
- Matthews A, Haas DM, O'Mathúna DP, Dowswell T, Doyle M. Interventions for nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD007575. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007575.pub3.
- NHS Choices [accessed 10 February 2015] Nausea and morning sickness http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/morning-sickness-nausea.aspx
- HSE [accessed 10 February 2015] ‘New and Expectant Mothers: The law’, London, HSE: http://www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/law.htm
- Gov.uk [accessed 10 February 2015] ‘Pregnant employees’ rights’ https://www.gov.uk/working-when-pregnant-your-rights Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ Midwifery, 14th edition, London, Ballière Tindall, p. 748, 749;
- NHS Choices [accessed 10 February 2015] ‘Severe vomiting in pregnancy’, : http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/Severe-vomiting-in-pregnancy-hyperemesis-gravidarum.aspx
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We've got all the information you need about your body, your emotions and your baby, week-by-week of your pregnancy.
In many cases the symptoms in this section will not lead to a serious complication and will be treated easily. Occasionally though they are signs of a more serious complaint.
Finding out that you are pregnant, whether you have been trying for a pregnancy or not, can come as quite a surprise - or even a shock!
ℹLast reviewed on April 1st, 2015. Next review date April 1st, 2018.