Morning Sickness vs Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)

Here we will be debunking and answering your questions about pregnancy nausea, so you know what is normal and what is not in your pregnancy.


What is morning sickness?

Also known as pregnancy nausea, morning sickness is a sick feeling pregnant women can develop that can hit at any point in the day (despite its name). Morning sickness usually starts in the 6th week of pregnancy and usually decreases between weeks 16 and 20, but some experience nausea into their second and third trimesters. Around 70-80% women get morning sickness but not all of them vomit because of it. Morning sickness does not harm you baby.


What causes morning sickness?

The exact cause is unknown, but doctors put morning sickness down to a rapid increase of hormones flooding your body. This might be exacerbated by the foetus’ growth putting pressure on your digestive system.


What does morning sickness feel like?

For those who haven’t experience morning sickness, it feels similar to motion sickness, that can last all day or come in waves. You can suddenly feel nauseas from a certain smell or taste, being too hot or even just tired.


What can trigger morning sickness?

Everybody is different, but here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the things that can trigger nausea when you are pregnant:

  • Certain smells and tastes
  • Spicy food
  • Citrus
  • Caffeine
  • Fatty foods
  • Smell of cooking
  • Hunger
  • Dehydration
  • Tiredness


What makes you more likely to have morning sickness?

  • Morning sickness runs in the family
  • Had morning sickness during a previous pregnancy
  • Taken birth control pills before, as the oestrogen in them can irritate the stomach, and cause it to be generally more sensitive. Also, if you felt sick while taking contraceptive pills.
  • You are prone to motion sickness, migraines, or sensitivity to smells and tastes.


How can you treat morning sickness?

Once again, everyone is different, but here are some of the most revered treatments:

  • Taking natural anti-nausea remedies, like drinks or foods containing ginger
  • Eating plan or dry foods, such as crackers or Digestive biscuits (carry these around with you for if morning sickness strikes while you are out)
  • Sucking on peppermint sweets
  • Taking prescribed anti-nausea medication
  • Eating smaller but more frequent meals
  • Staying hydrated
  • Keeping well rested


When should you go to the hospital?

If you can’t keep fluids or food down (for 24 hours) and are losing weight, producing an increased amount of saliva, drinking without passing much urine, and can’t stand without feeling faint, this may be hyperemesis gravidarum. You need to seek a hospital immediately, if not call your midwife or doctor.


If you experience flu-like symptoms, or stomach pains, medical assistance must be sought after too.


What is hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)?

HG is not like regular morning sickness, and is potentially life-threatening. It happens from severe dehydration and malnourishment, because food and fluids cannot be kept down, which also causes weight loss. It can last the whole of the pregnancy, and can lead to hospitalisations and in severe cases, feeding tubes need to be used.


Unlike morning sickness, this is damaging to mum and baby. It is not uncommon and a cause is not quite known yet. However, it is not the mother’s fault.


What is the mental toll of HG?

Feeling so unwell and vomiting so much can make a pregnant woman feel lonely, due to their isolation from being housebound, or not wanting to see anyone. This could lead to a development of depression or anxiety. There could also be a sense of imposter syndrome, if people assume it is just nausea or morning sickness.


How to treat HG?

The first point of call is to tell your midwife or doctor immediately, or calling 111 or seeking a hospital. HG is very serious and needs to be treated and managed.


Ways to potentially alleviate symptoms include:

  • Eating when you are hungry.
  • Carrying plain food around with you.
  • Staying hydrated (this could be through sucking on ice cubes or sipping drinks through a straw).
  • Keeping windows open to let in fresh air, and decrease the strength of smells, such as when food is cooking.
  • Finding something to distract you, such as tv shows, films, books, music, or a low-energy hobby such as a craft.
  • Resting – and not rushing to do work as soon as you stop feeling nauseas.
  • Telling people your triggers so they can help you avoid them.
  • Letting people keep you company, or asking for help for daily tasks you cannot do yourself.
  • Not beating yourself up.


What makes you more likely to have HG?

If HG runs in the family or you have had it before in a previous pregnancy, you have a higher likelihood of developing it again. However, nothing you have done will have caused HG. It is not your fault.


What if you don’t experience any morning sickness?

This is not a bad thing! Everybody is different, and some seem to handle the fluctuating hormones better than others, but because there is not an established cause of morning sickness and HG yet, we cannot be sure.


If morning sickness or HG makes you feel anxious, isolated, or confused, talk to your doctor or midwife. You can also contact Pregnancy Sickness Support, who have lots of information, direct support through a phone line and help through forum groups. (


Written by Helena Quainton at Recognize
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3 thoughts on “Morning Sickness vs Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)”

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