Even with all the knowledge we have about pregnancy, there’s still something that feels a bit mysterious about, you know, a human growing another human. Morning sickness is particularly puzzling as it affects so many and doesn’t have one specific cause (or cure, sadly). If you’ve experienced the dreaded nausea yourself, chances are that a well-meaning person has told you some funny old wives' tales about morning sickness intended to enlighten you, or at least lift your mood. And, chances are also that this new info did not feel particularly funny in the moments when you were debating whether or not to puke in a public trash can.
The word 'wives' in this case (as is also the case in the words ‘fishwife’ and ‘midwife’) comes from the Old English word "wif," meaning woman. These folklores that seem hilarious in their absurdity have been passed down from previous generations who were just trying to make sense of it all.
I spoke with Dr. Caitlin Szabo, OB-GYN, and Dr. Chavi Eve Karkowsky, OB-GYN, to learn the truth behind these 6 silly old wives' tales about morning sickness that will hopefully make you laugh (or, at the very least, resonate with you while you eat your 30th ginger chew of the day).
1. It will stop at exactly the 12-week mark
It's funny to think that right at 12 weeks your morning sickness would just abruptly come to a full stop (wouldn't that be nice?) though most symptoms do start to naturally resolve right around the start of the second trimester.
The severity of morning sickness usually, "peaks around 10 weeks. This is because it is correlated to the level of beta HCG hormone, which also peaks around 10 weeks," Szabo tells Romper.
But — and I'm so sorry to tell you — this isn't always the case. Some people, "experience nausea throughout pregnancy," Szabo says. "It's important to see your doctor or midwife to monitor weight gain throughout the pregnancy to make sure that your nausea and/or vomiting is not interfering with your ability to gain a healthy amount of weight."
2. Your baby will have a lot of hair
Predicting the amount of hair an infant will have based on heartburn sounds ludicrous, but, brace yourselves. Johns Hopkins' researchers set out to disprove this wives' tale but what they found instead was that this one actually may be true. It seems that heartburn and baby's hair is correlated; according to The New York Times, the Hopkins' researchers found that 28 out of 64 pregnant people surveyed "reported moderate to severe heartburn" and 23 of those 28 had babies with "average or above-average amounts of hair." The thought is that hormones like estrogen that influence hair growth can also cause heartburn. So if you're having terrible heartburn (which is usually a different sensation than morning sickness) maybe you can try to picture your baby's beautiful flowing locks.
3. Everyone experiences it
Some (lucky) people will have no vomiting or nausea at all during their pregnancies. About 70 percent of folks will experience morning sickness, per The Cleveland Clinic, and 3 percent will have severe symptoms. So while most will experience some level of the dreaded morning sickness, there's a chance of getting through the first trimester scot-free. However, just because it's common doesn't mean you should just deal or ignore your symptoms.
"If your nausea or vomiting is so bad that you cannot keep down any liquids, even water, then you need to see your provider as soon as possible for evaluation and possibly treatment," Szabo says.
4. It's only in the morning
Well this old wives' tale is wildly misleading, as you may know from firsthand experience. "Many women find that their pregnancy-related nausea is worse when their stomach is empty. That means that morning can be a tough time," Karkowsky says. "However, in general, 'morning sickness' is a misnomer; the nausea can and does strike... throughout the day."
2018 reporting done by The New York Times said there's "an existing hypothesis that nausea and vomiting during pregnancy may be part of an evolutionary strategy to protect developing fetuses by reducing the chance that their mothers will consume foods containing toxins or pathogens during a critical time of organ development." This theory lends credibility to the idea that morning sickness can't just turn on or off depending on the hour.
5. There's nothing you can do about it
The thought that you just have to feel awful with no relief for three or so months makes me laugh (then fills me with equal parts dread and rage). "People have been searching for ways to relieve their morning sickness for millennia!" Karkowsky tells Romper. Many people who experience morning sickness do find at least temporary relief from it. Some find that eating small, frequent meals is a good way to stave off nausea, according to Karkowsky. She adds that, "there are prescription options for stronger medications, which are still quite safe in pregnancy, available through your doctor."
"Ginger chews can be a good natural way to relieve nausea [and] vitamin B6 has been shown to greatly improve nausea and vomiting," Szabo says. Others may find some relief by pressing on acupressure points on the wrist or by, similarly, using motion sickness bands.
6. Your baby is feeling sick too
It's so ridiculous to think a fetus would be able to commiserate with your nausea that it's almost comical to imagine. Experiencing morning sickness, even for the entirety of a pregnancy "doesn't mean that anything bad will happen to the fetus — most of these pregnancies results in healthy term babies — but we will always need to treat the pregnant woman so that she's healthy, too."
So, rest assured that even when you can't stomach food or stand any smells (perfumes and candles, begone) your baby is feeling just fine, thank you.
Dr. Chavi Eve Karkowsky, OB-GYN, Montefiore Health System, and assistant professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Dr. Caitlin Szabo, OB-GYN, Atlanta Women's Healthcare