The Causes of Morning Sickness and How to Prevent It

It's important to pay attention to your diet and avoid irritating spicy foods and caffeine to prevent morning sickness. Continue reading to find out why it happens!
The Causes of Morning Sickness and How to Prevent It

Written by Carmen Martín

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Morning sickness, as the name suggests, is a nauseating sensation during the first hours of the day. It’s one of the most common symptoms at the beginning of a pregnancy.

In fact, estimates indicate that between 50 and 70% of pregnant women experience it. However, pregnancy isn’t the only cause as certain diseases or bad habits could also lead to it.

This symptom can be difficult to manage. Continue reading to find out what causes it along with certain measures to either prevent it altogether or cope with it as best as you can.

The causes of morning sickness

As we mentioned above, pregnancy is the main cause of morning sickness and usually happens during the first trimester. Furthermore, the vast majority of cases completely disappear by the second trimester.

Some believe the cause of such nausea is a hormone produced in the placenta: human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). It’s the one that allows a pregnancy to happen.

However, other factors, such as stress, fatigue, or low blood sugar levels also play a significant role. Morning sickness is often accompanied by vomiting in pregnant women.

The truth is this symptom is quite unpredictable in these women. In fact, it seems that having had nausea during a previous pregnancy or carrying two or more embryos are risk factors for developing it.

Nausea and vomiting may be too abundant and frequent in some women. A condition called hyperemesis gravidarum can occur when this happens. Thus, the pregnant woman can become dehydrated and lose too much weight. In this case, her pregnancy could be at risk.

A woman experiencing cramps.
Morning sickness is common during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Check out these Seven Natural Remedies to Stop Vomiting

Other possible causes

Note that morning sickness is a rather nonspecific symptom that can occur in many other circumstances besides pregnancy. In any gastrointestinal infection, for example.

In fact, eating too late at night or in the early morning is a determining factor, and poor digestion or using caffeine or other stimulants can also trigger it.

Similarly, there’s a link between morning sickness and other diseases such as diabetes or pelvic inflammatory. Also, note that stress and anxiety are among the most important risk factors.

Finally, nausea and vomiting at any time, including the morning, can be a side effect of medical treatment. As you may already know, chemotherapy treatments and many other drugs are often nauseating.

A nauseated woman.
Nausea can also be a consequence of an intestinal infection or poor digestion.

Read about the Lack of Appetite in Pregnancy

How to prevent morning sickness

Some women have a hard time coping with morning sickness. The same can happen to people who experience nausea due to something other than pregnancy. It’s for this reason that it’s important to follow certain recommendations to reduce or relieve it.

First of all, pay special attention to food. Specialists recommend eating five smaller meals throughout the day and skip heavy dinners. You must also reduce the consumption of spicy and fatty foods, as well as caffeine and alcohol.

In addition, this symptom is influenced by smells and tastes. Thus, you must avoid all those that are unpleasant or nauseating. It can be something as simple as brushing your teeth, so just be aware of it.

Some people find it useful to use relaxation and breathing techniques to keep themselves from vomiting. Even so, it’s best to remain well-hydrated and consult a physician if it becomes persistent or there’s vomiting. The professional will determine if other treatments are necessary after an evaluation.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Flaxman SM, Sherman PW. Morning sickness: a mechanism for protecting mother and embryo. Q Rev Biol. 2000;75(2):113‐148. doi:10.1086/393377
  • Lee NM, Saha S. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2011;40(2):309‐vii. doi:10.1016/j.gtc.2011.03.009
  • Bustos M, Venkataramanan R, Caritis S. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy – What’s new?. Auton Neurosci. 2017;202:62‐72. doi:10.1016/j.autneu.2016.05.002
  • Maltepe C. Surviving morning sickness successfully: from patient’s perception to rational management. J Popul Ther Clin Pharmacol. 2014;21(3):e555‐e564.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.