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During the first trimester, most of us experience various pregnancy symptoms that make us feel like crap. Intermingled with the joy of growing our families is a delightful array of breast tenderness, fatigue, and, the best of the best: morning sickness. Blechhhhh.
When the dreaded feelings of nausea kick in, most of us jump on Google–at least to the extent we can stare at screens without vomiting. Tips for dealing with morning sickness, morning sickness symptoms, morning sickness treatment–we scour the interwebs looking for something, anything, that might make us feel better.
But as a recurrent miscarriage mom, my response to morning sickness was something different entirely.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, Branham, I was miserable. Looking at screens, being in the car, or basically doing anything other than lying in bed staring at the ceiling made my stomach churn. For months, I lived on donuts and Cheerios–the only things I could stomach, and only if I was lucky.
And yet, despite the 24-hour misery, part of me was relieved. Somehow, feeling so sick gave me hope that this pregnancy had a better chance of ending healthily.
The thing is, I didn’t understand why I felt this way. After all, I was hugging the toilet with morning sickness the night before my D&C for my first miscarriage, and I’d had zero nausea during my pregnancy with my living son, Jack.
Yet somehow, for reasons I couldn’t explain, morning sickness made me feel a bit more confident in my pregnancy’s health, and every time I mentioned feeling sick, moms in the loss community would remind me “that’s a good sign.”
But is it, really? I had to know!
Is there a Connection Between Morning Sickness and Miscarriage Risk?
It’s not unusual to second-guess every little bodily symptom. This is especially true for pregnancy after loss moms. When we experience loss, we often wonder if there were early signs of miscarriage we missed and how we can prevent a miscarriage during our subsequent pregnancies.
Let me take this moment to remind you that your losses were NOT your fault, mama. You’re doing the best you can, and that’s all we can do.
But that doesn’t change the fact that we spend days and nights worrying about whether we’re feeling too sick OR not sick enough. Symptom tracking is a beast, and we often use it to give ourselves hope–or anxiety.
Overanalyzing symptoms like pregnancy nausea and vomiting is common, friend. I won’t say it’s “normal” because I’m not convinced it’s mentally healthy. But you’re not alone if you do it. In fact, I suspect you’re in the majority! You’re certainly doing the same thing I did.
We’ve compiled all the information we could find to answer your questions about the connection between morning sickness and miscarriage. I hope we can ease your weary mind a bit with our experiences and research. Let’s get started!
Why Do We Get Sick During Early Pregnancy?
Starting with the basics, it’s helpful to understand why morning sickness happens. The most common belief is that pregnancy nausea and vomiting relate directly to the hormone levels in our bodies during the early weeks of pregnancy.
After successful implantation, our bodies begin producing pregnancy hormones called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This is the hormone that home pregnancy tests look for, and doctors often test our hCG levels during urine and blood tests to evaluate the probable health of our pregnancies.
(Ever heard infertility moms talk about “beta hell”? That’s the few weeks in which they go to the clinic every few days to monitor their hCG levels before they can have an ultrasound.)
While other factors, such as motion sickness, scent, stress, and blood sugar may play a role in pregnancy-related nausea, hormones seem to be a primary culprit.
Do Morning Sickness Symptoms Signal a Healthy Pregnancy?
Every time someone told me my morning sickness was a good sign, I cringed. And yet, I clung to that nausea because somehow, it made me feel closer to Branham, like she was actually more likely to grow safely. And studies suggest that feeling was valid.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported in 2016 there is a link between pregnancy nausea and a lower risk of pregnancy loss.
Our study evaluates symptoms from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, immediately after conception, and confirms that there is a protective association between nausea and vomiting and a lower risk of pregnancy loss.Stefanie N. Hinkle, Ph.D, NIH Researcher
This study was unique in that it used real-time logs that expecting mothers kept of their pregnancy symptoms, while previous research had relied on mothers’ recollection of symptoms after-the-fact.
The conclusion? Women in this study who experienced nausea or vomiting by the 8th week of pregnancy were 50%-75% less likely to experience loss compared to those who had not experienced either symptom.
This study was a secondary analysis from a different clinical trial. In other words, the researchers did not compile the group of participants for this specific aim, but instead used data from a previous clinical trial on a different subject with 797 participants.
They analyzed the real-time symptom logs of each participant with the known outcome of that participant’s pregnancy to reach these conclusions.
Every study participant had experienced a previous miscarriage, but since pregnancy loss is common, and one loss does not on its own signal an overarching medical problem, this data is still very compelling.
Subsequent research has shown other possible connections between nausea and vomiting and a decreased risk of miscarriage, but no more comprehensive studies than the 2016 NIH one has been conducted.
So what does all this mean?
Simply put, it means that you might take some comfort in the symptoms you’re experiencing. Evidence suggests you should, though I admittedly look forward to further trials in the future.
What if You Don’t Have Morning Sickness; Is This is a Problem?
Here’s the thing. By saying that experiencing morning sickness may decrease your risk of miscarriage, we ease many women’s minds, while scaring the hell out of others.
Please, friend, hear me. If you’re pregnant and not experiencing morning sickness, that alone is not cause for concern!
Take a deep breath and remember that many healthy pregnancies are not accompanied by miserable symptoms.
While there is an evident connection between morning sickness and a decreased risk of miscarriage, an absence of nausea and vomiting doesn’t mean your pregnancy isn’t healthy. Chances are good that you will go on to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, whether you’re nauseous during the first trimester or not.
And since real-life experiences are often more compelling than statistical numbers (even though those numbers are much better representatives of the population at large), let me tell you my experience as a recurrent loss mom with two living children:
I have experienced morning sickness and still miscarried.
I have experienced no nausea or vomiting and still miscarried.
I have experienced no nausea or vomiting and carried to term.
I have experienced severe morning sickness and carried to term.
All of that to say, there are far more factors at play than just your nausea symptoms.
My best advice is this:
- Take this pregnancy one step at a time
- Talk to your doctor about any concerns
- Learn how to manage the inevitable pregnancy anxiety
Try Not to Stress Too Much About Morning Sickness & Miscarriage
While no one enjoys spending their days leaning over the toilet and regurgitating their breakfast, there’s comfort in knowing it can be par for the course when you’re having a baby.
However, an absence of morning sickness isn’t something you should be freaking out about, either. If you’re not getting sick every day, the only thing you should be concerned about is fighting off other moms who want to know your secret!
What have your experiences with morning sickness and miscarriage looked like?
Other Miscarriage Articles
Whether you’re nervous about a potential pregnancy loss or expecting after a previous miscarriage, it’s helpful to have informative and supportive content available. Below you’ll find a list of our most popular articles about miscarriage-related topics:
- Preventing Miscarriage (Debunking the Myths)
- Miscarriage or Period (How to Tell the Difference)
- Recurrent Miscarriage (Katy’s Story)
- Miscarriage Support (Our Favorite Resources)
- Pregnancy Anxiety After Miscarriage
- Signs of a Missed Miscarriage
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Romper, Scary Mommy, Demeter Press’s Motherhood and Social Exclusion, & more.