In some instances, an upset stomach and other digestive complaints during early gestation could be a sign of hyperemesis gravidarum, a potentially serious pregnancy condition that might lead to dehydration and other complications if left untreated. But for most expectant women, that rolling feeling you have in your stomach at the end of your first trimester is just a temporary sign that your body is still adapting to caring for the baby growing in your womb.
In most cases, an upset stomach during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy seems to develop as a result of suddenly fluctuating hormone levels in your newly pregnant body. These female hormones include human chorionic gonadotropin, progesterone and estrogen. Women who experience higher levels of these hormones, such as those who are pregnant with twins or triplets, typically seem to experience more intense nausea and morning sickness, notes Heidi Murkoff, coauthor of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Other factors that could play a role in contributing to or worsening nausea and stomach problems during early pregnancy include physical exhaustion, a heightened sense of smell and emotional or psychological stress.
Many women first notice an upset stomach as early as four to six weeks of gestation and symptoms often continue until you reach 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. You might just notice a slightly queasy stomach or mild feeling of nausea, but these symptoms could also worsen to encompass severe nausea, dry heaves, vomiting and acid reflux or heartburn. Symptoms of morning sickness sometimes occur just during the early part of the morning hours or they take place throughout the day, depending on the severity of the condition.
Prevention and Treatment
Minimize an upset stomach and other morning sickness symptoms during your first trimester of pregnancy by using an assortment of simple strategies. Nibble on an easy-to-digest, carbohydrate-based food, such as a piece of toast, early in the morning, and consume frequent small snacks -- instead of large meals -- throughout the day. Drink plenty of water and steer clear of strong-smelling foods and cigarette smoke, which might get your stomach rolling. If you do develop an upset stomach or nausea, try eating bland foods, such as gelatin or applesauce, or those that contain ginger, such as ginger ale, recommends MedlinePlus.
Talk to your pregnancy care provider if an upset stomach and other morning sickness symptoms worsen drastically or continue past your 16th week of gestation. In certain cases, severe ongoing morning sickness could indicate hyperemesis gravidarum, a pregnancy condition that involves intense vomiting and nausea and could require additional treatment, including hospitalization. Additional signs that you might have hyperemesis gravidarum include weight loss, dehydration, decreased urine output, headaches and severe fatigue.
- “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”; Heidi Murkoff, et al.; 2008
- “The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy”; Dr. Roger Harms; 2004
- “The Morning Sickness Companion”; Elizabeth Kaledin; 2003
- MedlinePlus: Morning Sickness
- The American Pregnancy Association: Hyperemesis Gravidarum