Getting pregnant is an exciting time for many women, but it can also come with some unpleasant symptoms. Hormonal changes and physical changes during pregnancy can make some women feel quite ill, especially in the first trimester. So can getting pregnant actually make you sick?
While every pregnancy is different, it is very common for expectant mothers to experience nausea, vomiting, fatigue, food aversions, and other pregnancy discomforts. These symptoms are a result of the dramatic rise in hormones like estrogen and progesterone that happen immediately after conception. For many women, the first several weeks of pregnancy can feel like being on a rollercoaster of new symptoms as the body adjusts to its pregnant state.
Key Takeaways: Can Pregnancy Make You Feel Sick?
- The rapid hormonal shifts right after conception frequently cause nausea, vomiting, fatigue and food aversions in early pregnancy. This is often called morning sickness but can occur any time of day.
- While uncomfortable, these feelings of sickness due to pregnancy hormones are typically not harmful and tend to improve after the first trimester.
- Some pregnant women develop more serious conditions like hyperemesis gravidarum which causes severe, persistent nausea and vomiting. This requires medical treatment.
- Other conditions like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia can also make expectant mothers feel ill. Regular prenatal care helps monitor for these complications.
- Symptoms like vomiting and fatigue early in pregnancy are often a sign the pregnancy is progressing normally, although every woman’s experience is different.
Common Causes of Feeling Sick During Pregnancy
Here are some of the most frequently experienced symptoms that can make a pregnant woman feel unwell:
Morning sickness is the common term used to describe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Despite the name, these symptoms can strike any time of day or night. Morning sickness is thought to be related to the increase in the hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). Other hormones like estrogen also rise rapidly in early pregnancy and may contribute.
Up to 80% of pregnant women experience some degree of nausea or other morning sickness symptoms between weeks 4 to 14 of pregnancy. However, the severity can range from mild food aversions to severe vomiting and nausea requiring hospitalization. If you have nausea and vomiting every day prior to week 12 of your pregnancy, it’s considered morning sickness.
The exact causes of morning sickness are not fully understood but may include:
- Hormone changes – hCG and estrogen rise rapidly in early pregnancy which can trigger nausea
- Enhanced sense of smell – pregnant women tend to have a heightened olfactory system which makes smells more intense and triggering
- Physical fatigue – the early demands on the body can result in tiredness and imbalance
- Low blood sugar – some women get nauseous when blood sugar is low
- Estrogen effect on gastrointestinal tract – impacts gastric motility
- Evolutionary adaptation – theory it protected pregnant women from toxins and infection when the baby is most vulnerable
Some women find morning sickness symptoms start to improve around weeks 14-16 as the hormones begin to plateau. However, some women continue to experience nausea and vomiting throughout pregnancy.
While most women have mild to moderate morning sickness, others develop a severe condition called hyperemesis gravidarum. This causes excessive nausea and vomiting to the point the woman cannot keep any food or liquids down.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is characterized by:
- Severe nausea/vomiting multiple times a day
- Persistent vomiting over 3-4 weeks or more
- Weight loss of 5% or more due to vomiting
- Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
- Need for IV fluids
While the exact prevalence is uncertain, it’s estimated around 1-2% of pregnant women develop hyperemesis gravidarum. It’s important to seek medical treatment, as hospitalization and IV fluids may be required in severe cases to correct dehydration and balance electrolytes. Medications or vitamin B6 supplements may help improve nausea.
Feeling extremely tired and fatigued is another common pregnancy complaint. Fatigue can range from mild sleepiness to excessive exhaustion that interferes with everyday function.
Some reasons a pregnant woman may feel fatigue include:
- Hormone changes – rising progesterone relaxes muscles and has tranquilizing effect
- Lower blood pressure – can reduce blood flow
- Low blood sugar – from appetite changes or morning sickness
- Anemia – low iron can reduce oxygen transport
- Increased heart rate – pumps more blood to support fetus
- Nighttime bathroom trips – interrupted sleep
While fatigue typically improves in the 2nd trimester, feeling very tired and run down can persist throughout pregnancy for some women. Resting more, staying hydrated, eating small meals, and moderate exercise can help boost energy.
Food Aversions and Cravings
Up to 90% of expectant mothers experience changes in taste, often in the first trimester. Suddenly, certain foods you used to enjoy become unappealing or you develop an intense craving for something unusual.
Some theories on why food aversions and cravings happen include:
- Hormone changes affecting taste buds
- Heightened sense of smell makes scents more intense
- Nausea prompting avoidance of triggers
- Subconscious desires to obtain more calories or nutrients
- Stress or emotional associations with certain foods
If you experience food aversions, try eating blander foods like crackers or plain starches. Avoid spicy or fatty foods if they trigger nausea. Give into occasional cravings for foods you can tolerate, but try to make overall balanced choices. These appetite changes tend to improve after the first few months.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes triggered by pregnancy hormones. It occurs when the body cannot properly use insulin during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually develops between weeks 24-28 of pregnancy for those who are at risk.
Symptoms of gestational diabetes include:
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing cuts/bruises
- Recurrent infections
Gaining excessive weight, having a family history of diabetes, or obesity can increase risk. Gestational diabetes must be carefully managed through diet, exercise, blood sugar monitoring and sometimes medication or insulin therapy. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause pregnancy complications. Testing for it should be part of routine prenatal care.
Preeclampsia is a complication in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine after week 20 of pregnancy. It usually develops in the 3rd trimester and can become life-threatening if not treated promptly.
- Severe headaches
- Changes in vision
- Upper abdominal pain
- Sudden weight gain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Decreased urination
The exact causes of preeclampsia are not fully known, but risk factors include existing high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Delivery of the baby is the only cure for preeclampsia though blood pressure medications and early delivery may be used for severe cases.
Are These Symptoms Normal?
Mild to moderate nausea, food aversions, fatigue and sensitivity to smell early in pregnancy are considered a normal part of a developing pregnancy for many women. These symptoms are likely not harmful and tend to resolve or improve after the first trimester. However, severe, persistent symptoms or those later in pregnancy need medical evaluation.
It’s important to maintain good communication with your doctor and bring up any symptoms you find concerning. Stay hydrated, rest when needed, and avoid nausea triggers if possible. But you should feel reassurance that some sickness in early pregnancy is common and likely a sign things are progressing normally. Every woman experiences pregnancy differently, so your symptoms may not be exactly the same as others either.
Tips For Coping With Feeling Sick During Pregnancy
Even if it’s expected, feeling unwell for weeks or months while pregnant is no fun. Here are some tips to minimize sickness and keep you as comfortable as possible:
- Eat small, frequent meals instead of large ones
- Focus on bland, gentle foods like crackers or plain starches
- Drink fluids between instead of during meals
- Take prenatal vitamins at night if they trigger nausea
- Get fresh air and try ginger, mint, or lemon to reduce nausea
- Take short, gentle walks to boost energy
- Get extra rest, but not too much sleep which can worsen fatigue
- Use sea bands, acupressure, or massage for nausea relief
- Communicate with your doctor about persistent symptoms
While being pregnant can certainly make you feel sick, for most women it’s short-lived and a small price to pay for the joy of nurturing a new life. Pay attention to symptoms and get medical care promptly for those that seem abnormal for a developing pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Feeling Sick When Pregnant:
Is it normal to feel nauseous all day when pregnant?
Feeling nauseous throughout the day in early pregnancy is common and normal for many women due to shifting hormones. As long as you can keep some food and liquids down and the nausea is not severe, this usually resolves by the 2nd trimester without harming mom or baby.
Should I be concerned about vomiting several times a day in early pregnancy?
Throwing up occasionally from morning sickness usually isn’t concerning if you can keep down some food and liquid. But vomiting several times a day, being unable to retain anything, and showing signs of dehydration could indicate hyperemesis gravidarum. This requires prompt medical treatment for your health and your baby’s wellbeing.
Why am I feeling so fatigued in my first trimester?
Extreme fatigue and sleepiness are very common in the first trimester due to factors like rising progesterone, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and interrupted sleep from trips to the bathroom. While frustrating, this usually improves in the 2nd trimester. Listen to your body and get extra rest when possible. Stay active with gentle exercise too.
Is it okay if certain food smells make me feel sick right now?
Yes, it’s completely normal to experience food aversions or sensitivity to smells, especially in early pregnancy when hormones are surging. Avoid triggers and choose bland foods if needed. This enhanced sense of smell typically improves for most women as pregnancy progresses.
How can I tell if my symptoms are serious or just normal pregnancy sickness?
Pay attention to any symptoms that seem extreme compared to typical pregnancy discomforts, like excessive vomiting making you unable to keep food or liquid down, sudden swelling, visual changes, bleeding or extreme pain. Also be alert to symptoms that persist longer than expected, like nausea and vomiting beyond 20 weeks. When in doubt, call your doctor.
In summary, it is very common and expected to have some feelings of sickness during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. While not fun, symptoms like morning sickness, fatigue, and food aversions are the body’s natural response to hormonal and physical changes. Stay in touch with your doctor, use remedies as needed, and take comfort that for most women these feelings do pass with time. Enjoy the journey of nourishing your growing baby!