Morning sickness is nausea or vomiting during the first 20 weeks of
pregnancy. More than half of pregnant women have morning sickness
during the first trimester. It usually goes away by the second
trimester. When morning sickness is severe, it is called
What is going on in the body?
The cause of morning sickness is not well understood, but hormones seem to be
involved. The hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG, is produced
by the fertilized egg and by the chorionic villi. These are the fingerlike
projections of the developing placenta. HCG is needed to keep the pregnancy
going until the placenta has developed enough. HCG levels are usually highest
in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
A woman with high levels of HCG is more likely to have morning sickness. High
levels of HCG are seen in multiple pregnancies, such as twins and triplets. A
woman who has had morning sickness in a previous pregnancy is more likely to
have it again.
Increased HCG levels can be caused by a
molar pregnancy, or tumor of the placenta. This condition should be
ruled out in women with morning sickness. There is some evidence that
psychological factors, such as ambivalence toward pregnancy, can increase the
risk of morning sickness.