call it pregnancy sickness

The term “morning sickness” is a misnomer. If you are one of the 80% of pregnant women who suffer from it every year you will know all too well that pregnancy sickness doesn’t just occur in the morning, it can strike at any time of the day.

It can be miserable all-day-all-night nausea and vomiting for some and less debilitating for others – but calling it ‘morning sickness’ doesn’t cover it!

#notmorningsickness is a pledge campaign founded by Nicola Cutcher and Charlotte Howden to demand that health professionals, the media, retailers and the public (that’s all of us) ditch the term ‘morning sickness’ and start calling it what it is: PREGNANCY SICKNESS.

why are we doing this?


During both of my pregnancies I spent months feeling seriously unwell, day and night. Any motion, even turning over in bed, could trigger a wave of retching. I felt like I was constantly sea sick, trapped below deck and unable to find the horizon. I clung to my mattress as if it were a life raft and shuffled around the house clutching my sick bowl. The nausea stopped me working, reading, writing, cooking or doing much at all. When I left the house, I carried sick bags and mints.

“But do you know what made me feel even worse? When people called it ‘morning sickness’. I’ll tell you why.”

It’s inaccurate. Because it is not confined to the morning! The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of ‘morning sickness’ says it is “a sign of pregnancy, occurring at any time of day”. Talk about broken language. To paraphrase George Orwell: ‘War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Morning is Any Time of Day.’

It’s misleading. When I told a friend that I’d had a miserable day and thrown up lunch and dinner, she replied, “sounds more like an all-day sickness”. I had to bite my hand to stop myself from screaming “it is an all-day-sickness”. I can’t blame my friends for taking words at face value. The terminology diminishes and trivialises the suffering of women and misleads those around us to think of pregnancy sickness as a minor inconvenience confined to the mornings. This adds insult to injury.

I know that there are a lot of problems in the world but this one has an easy fix: just change the language! We can’t keep using a term that is inaccurate, misleading and trivialises the suffering of women. Time’s up for ‘morning sickness’.


I could not have known what would transpire and how my world would unravel just weeks after seeing those two lines on that pregnancy test.

At 33 it became apparent very quickly how ignorant I was about pregnancy. Was I to blame? Potentially but I know now that what contributed to my misery was the lack of knowledge that my health care professionals had about my pregnancy sickness and how in general friends, family and colleagues referred to my pain as just “really bad morning sickness.”

It wasn’t until I was 16 weeks pregnant that a health care professional took my condition seriously and I learnt that in fact I didn’t have “really bad morning sickness”, I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum – a potentially life threatening, genetic and debilitating severe pregnancy sickness condition that affects 1-2% of women every year.

“Whilst my position on the pregnancy sickness spectrum was off the scale, I was still treated as if I just had regular morning sickness that could be treated with ginger tea and making sure that I ate little and often.”

Old Wives tales.

Terminology and using the correct language can have a huge impact on how people deal with what they are going through. If someone, anyone, had said to me “I am so sorry that your pregnancy sickness is so extreme and I can see how much you are suffering”, It would have gone a long way to help me understand that what I was going through wasn’t normal. Morning sickness doesn’t cut it anymore. So let’s just change it and call it what it is?

Nicola Cutcher
Charlotte Howden

how you can help.

We are asking everyone to pledge via the #notmorningsickness hashtag to share how you can help end the term “morning sickness”. See below for examples on how you can pledge today.

examples of how to pledge

Everyone can make a pledge but we are specifically looking for brands, journalists, other media professionals, TV and film producers, pregnancy sickness sufferers, and most importantly health professionals to help us end the term “morning sickness”.

Pregnancy sickness sufferers: Have you suffered with pregnancy sickness? Frustrated and utterly exasperated by the term “morning sickness”? Please share you story and help us explain why we need to ditch this term and call it what it really is…..pregnancy sickness. Tweet or post your story using the hashtag #notmorningsickness

Journalists: Writing another piece about ‘morning sickness’? Sharing a woman’s story about severe ‘morning sickness’? Pledge today and say: I pledge to use the term pregnancy sickness in my articles #notmorningsickness

Brands: Do you talk about ‘morning sickness’? Do you market products to pregnant women? Change your language in your marketing and pledge today: I pledge to use pregnancy sickness when referring to sickness during pregnancy #notmorningsickness

Health Professionals: Do you use the clinical term of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy with your colleagues but when speaking to patients refer to it as ‘morning sickness’? Pledge today! I pledge to refer to the clinical definition of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy or use ‘pregnancy sickness’ as shorthand #notmorningsickness

If you need help with pregnancy sickness please click the logo above to be directed to the Pregnancy Sickness Support website. They offer peer support, information and research, live chat and telephone helplines.