Morning Sickness: 12 Common Causes & What to Do

Morning sickness is very common in the first weeks of pregnancy, but it can also occur outside of pregnancy and can even happen to men.

Most of the time, morning sickness that is not related to pregnancy happens in people who do not sleep well or who have gone a long time without eating. These cases can be easily resolved. However, it's important to note that morning sickness can also be the first sign of several health problems such as acid reflux, kidney stones, or stomach ulcers.

If nausea does not improve within a few minutes, or if it happens frequently, it is best to consult a gastroenterologist to identify the cause and start appropriate treatment.

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 Common causes of morning sickness include:

1. Pregnancy

Morning sickness is one of the classic early symptoms of pregnancy. Morning sickness that occurs to fertile women, particularly between the ages of 20 and 30, usually occurs due to pregnancy.

Pregnancy-related nausea happens due to hormonal changes in the woman's body. It usually appears by the 4th week of pregnancy and can occur several times throughout the day (not just the morning!).

What to do: Confirm whether you are pregnant or not with an over-the-counter pregnancy test or by consulting your gynecologist. Check out our tips on when to take a home pregnancy test and how to perform one.

2. Sleep disturbances

Fatigue can also induce morning sickness. Nausea normally appears in people who undergo changes to their sleep patterns (e.g. with jet lag or insomnia). With lack of sleep, the body has inadequate time to repair itself and this can cause a dysfunction in hormonal production resulting in morning skickness.

What to do: You should try to sleep 7 to 8 hours a night to make sure your body has enough time to repair itself during sleep. If you have jet lag, adjust to your new time zone by trying to rest on the first day and avoiding any strenuous activities.

3. Fasting

People who spend too long without eating, especially more than 10 hours, may feel morning sickness due to a decrease in blood sugar levels.

Other symptoms that can emerge with low blood sugars include dizziness, weakness, and chills.

What to do: To prevent morning sckness, avoid fasting for more than 8 to 10 hours. Try having a light snack before bed, such as plain yogurt or jello. 

4. Hangover

A hangover, which happens after excessive intake of alcohol, is another common cause of morning sickness.

When too much alcohol is consumed, hydration levels decrease, as well as the amount of glucose in the blood, and this results in symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, headache, and sensitivity to light. 

What to do: To avoid morning sickness from hangovers, tit is important to increase hydration levels by drinking a lot of water throughout the day, and maintain glucose levels by eating fruit. Some people may benefit from having a coffee without sugar. Read about ways to cure a hangover at home. 

5. Heartburn

Heartburn, or acid reflux, happens when acid from the stomach backs-up into the esophagus, causing symptoms like burning, bloating, and nausea.

Even though nausea caused by heartburn can appear at any time of the day, it occurs more frequently in the early morning. This is because the stomach has been empty for a long time and the lying position from sleeping facilitates a back-up of acid into the esophagus.

What to do: You can reduce heartburn by sleeping in an elevated position to prevent stomach acid from reaching the esophagus. In addition, a light snack before bed can also help decrease the amount of time the stomach is empty, thus reducing acidity. 

7. Stomach ulcer

Nausea is a common symptom for people with stomach ulcers, and although it can happen at any time of the day, it occurs more frequently in the morning. This is due to the build-up of acid that occurs overnight from having an empty stomach. This built-up acid can create and worsen an ulcer, causing more inflammation and additional nausea and vomiting.  

What to do: Stomach ulcers can be treated with a diet based around natural, wholegrain foods. An assessment with the gastroenterologist is recommended, and medication may be prescribed (e.g. antacid medication).

8. Ear inflammation

The vestibular system, a structure located in the inner ear, is responsible for balance. Inflammation to this area can cause imbalance, which may lead to nausea and vomiting.

Other symptoms that can appear are pain, itchiness, reduced hearing, and discharge. 

What to do: If you suspect you have ear inflammation, a consult with an otolaryngologist is recommended, He or she will confirm a diagnosis and prescribe treatment, which may include antibiotics or anti-inflammatories.

9. Anxiety

Anxiety can cause nausea in some people, as well as morning sickness. Nausea can be more intense during an anxiety attack or panic attack. Read more about how to recognize an anxiety attack.

In addition to nausea, other symptoms can arise such as a feeling of fear, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, racing heart, trembling, heavy sweating or even fainting. These symptoms usually appear suddenly, increase in intensity within a few minutes and resolve within 5 to 20 minutes.

What to do: It's important to adopt coping mechanisms to reduce anxiety, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing your time well and getting enough rest to replenish your energy. Check out the herbs for anxiety that you can use to prepare soothing teas at home.

Some people may find a relaxing massage therapeutic. However, in some cases, you may need to go to therapy with the help of a psychologist or even use medication recommended by a psychiatrist. Learn more about the anxiety medication that your doctor can prescribe.

10. Migraines

Migraine can cause a constant headache, which can be throbbing or pulsating and last for several days. Migraines can lead to symptoms such as morning sickness, vomiting and sensitivity to light or noise. Learn about other causes of constant headache.  

What to do: It is recommended that you relax and rest in a dark place and take an analgesic or triptan medication, as prescribed by your neurologist. It is also important to identify any triggers that may be related to the increased intensity of the pain, so that treatment can be more targeted.

Migraines that are very intense and last for more than a week should be assessed by a neurologist, who may order testing and prescribe appropriate treatment.

11. Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is characterized by a significant drop in blood glucose, which can cause symptoms like morning sickness, dizziness, trembling, cold sweats, pale skin, heart palpitations, mental confusion or fainting.

Hypoglycemia usually occurs when there is treatment for diabetes is not adequate or not adhered to. It can also occur in people who fast for prolonged periods, after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, or following intense exercise. 

What to do: Eating smals and frequent meals (every 2 to 3 hours) can help prevent hypoglycemia. However, if you experience any of the above symptoms, you should drink fresh orange juice or eat something sweet to increase blood glucose quickly.

In addition, people undergoing treatment for diabetes should have regular check-ups with an endocrinologist to ensure the condition is adequately managed.

12. Chemotherapy

Morning sickness can also be caused by chemotherapy. These are drugs used to treat cancer, which help to prevent malignant cells from dividing and spreading.

However, chemotherapy can affect the cells in the stomach or the enterochromaffin cells in the intestine that produce serotonin, activating the vomiting center in the brain. This can lead to side effects such as nausea or vomiting. 

What to do: Treatment should be carried out as prescribed by an oncologist, who may prescribe medication to manage nausea and vomiting, such as ondansetron. In addition, you should avoid intense smells and eat a lighter diet to help reduce nausea and prevent vomiting.