I’m Pregnant and Can’t Stop Vomiting. Is This Normal?

It could be morning sickness. Or, you could have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum.

Pregnant young woman leaning on toilet and feeling sick

Medically reviewed in August 2022

Updated on August 19, 2022

If you’re early in your pregnancy and vomiting so much that it’s making everyday tasks like going to work difficult, you may be wondering: What’s happening to me? Is this harming my baby? Is there any way to find relief?

You could have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). It literally means “too much throwing up when you’re pregnant.” It usually starts in the first trimester, with most people improving by 16 to 20 weeks, although some experience it throughout their entire pregnancy.

What are signs that you have HG?
Up to 1 percent of pregnant people are thought to have HG. The condition is usually defined by:

  • The loss of at least 5 percent of your pre-pregnancy body weight
  • Severe, persistent vomiting—at least three times daily
  • Having troubles related to dehydration, such as lightheadedness or dizziness  

If your healthcare provider (HCP) suspects HG, they will likely order blood work and a urinalysis. Ketones in the urine are further evidence you've developed the condition.

Potential complications
If you think you may have HG, you shouldn’t wait until you’ve lost weight to seek medical care. When you’re vomiting so much that you can’t keep food or fluids down, it’s time to see your HCP. The condition is generally not life-threatening, but it can become dangerous if you’re unable to take in sufficient fluids and calories to feed yourself and your baby.

Dehydration can be a serious problem when you’re pregnant. Not getting enough fluids can lead to issues like low amniotic fluid, problems producing breast milk, and preterm labor. Signs that you’re dehydrated and require immediate medical attention include: 

  • Urinating less than usual
  • Having dark urine
  • Feeling dizzy when you stand up (or like your heart is racing)
  • Confusion
  • Extreme fatigue

What can I try at home to ease the condition?
You can start by tweaking your diet. Eat five or six very small meals or snacks throughout the day, and try to get a little protein such as nuts or yogurt into each meal. The best foods have protein and carbs, but not much fat. Bland or dry foods like applesauce, rice, tea, bread, and bananas are easily digestible, and dry toast and crackers may especially help when eaten first thing in the morning. Also be sure to avoid spicy, greasy, or acidic foods, which can upset your stomach.

Some herbs and herbal food and drinks may help by soothing the stomach and providing much-needed fluids. Peppermint tea and ginger items—including ginger ale, ginger candies, and fresh ginger tea—are popular options. 

Take care to drink fluids at least 30 minutes before or after eating, since it can help to steady your stomach. Think: cold, clear, and carbonated, such as seltzer or lemonade. Using a straw could help, too. For quick calories and hydration? Try the ER favorite—popsicles! The cold and slow nature of eating a popsicle can be comforting when you’re nauseated. You’ll also want to avoid lying down right after finishing up.

If you can’t keep much food down, make sure you're getting sufficient nutrition during the first trimester. Prenatal vitamins are important for that, but can also cause nausea. If they make you sick, try taking them with a small snack or just before you go to bed.  

Also, be sure to get plenty of rest. If you have someone who can help, let them make your meals for you, particularly if the prep and smell of food make you feel worse. 

Though studies have suggested they don’t work, some women find wearing acupressure bands on their wrists to be effective. These can be found at drug stores and may help alleviate both morning and motion sickness in some cases.

Are there medications for HG?
If you experience any symptoms of dehydration, see a provider. They may prescribe anti-nausea medications such as ondansetron (Zofran), prochlorperazine (Compazine), or meclizine (Antivert). Some of these are given by IV if you’re in the ER, while others are taken orally. If you’re very dehydrated, you may need IV fluids in the ER.

There are also a range of over-the-counter options available, though you should speak with an HCP before trying them. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) has been found to improve moderate nausea. Try 10mg to 25mg orally every eight hours; the maximum dose is 200mg/day. B6 combined with doxylamine, which can be purchased as Unisom Sleep Tabs, has also been shown to reduce morning sickness in the first trimester. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is another potential option and can be taken in 25mg to 50mg doses every eight hours.

Marijuana has been legalized in many areas across the country, but using it to ease HG symptoms isn’t a good idea. While more research is needed, studies suggest it can harm your baby’s health. 

Will my baby be in danger?
There are a lot of treatments available for HG that can help you feel better, keep food down, and give you—and therefore your baby—the nutrients you both need. Even babies born to women with HG throughout their entire pregnancy are only slightly more likely to be smaller than average. Taking medications for the nausea and vomiting do not seem to have significant long-term effects, so don’t let them be an additional stressor for you. Focus on getting rest and eating when you can, too. The better you feel and the healthier you are, the better it is for your baby.

Article sources open article sources

Cleveland Clinic. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (Severe Nausea & Vomiting During Pregnancy). Page last updated December 2, 2020.
Arslan S, Bektas F, Soyuncu S. Diagnosis of Hyperemesis Gravidarum in Patients with Pregnancy-Induced Vomiting Using a Point-of-Care Ketone Blood Test. Eurasian Journal of Emergency Medicine. 2017; 16: 119-22.
American Pregnancy Association. Dehydration During Pregnancy. Page accessed August 8, 2022.
Mayo Clinic. Dehydration. Page las updated October 14, 2021.
Mayo Clinic. Morning Sickness. Page last updated May 15, 2021.
Herrell HE. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. American Family Physician. 2014;89(12):965-970.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Morning Sickness: Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy. Last reviewed December 2021.
MedlinePlus. Hyperemesis gravidarum. Review date January 1, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marijuana and Public Health: Pregnancy. Last reviewed October 19, 2020.

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