Hyperemesis Gravidarum: What Pregnant Women Need to Know

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: What Pregnant Women Need to Know

Last update: 27 April, 2018

Hyperemesis gravidarum is the medical name for a complication that may occur during pregnancy and give rise to a number of unpleasant symptoms.

There are certain conditions that doctors consider to be normal side effects of pregnancy. However, this is one of the most severe.

In general, treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum is basic. In many cases, bed rest will be prescribed, along with a diet made up of dry, bland food. If the situation worsens, however, a hospital stay may be necessary.

With this in mind, healthcare specialists advise that pregnant women suffering from the symptoms of this condition seek medical advice, even when the cause is clear.

The main symptoms that characterize this condition include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, an imbalance of electrolytes in the body and weight loss.

Although not all women will experience all of the symptoms, at least one of these will be present.

What are the effects of hyperemesis gravidarum?

Studies have found that between 70% and 80% of pregnant women suffer from at least one of these symptoms during the early weeks of pregnancy. The effects may be more pronounced in the morning.

Although the symptoms are common, hospitals deal with large numbers of urgent cases every year.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: What Pregnant Women Need to Know

Hyperemesis gravidarum can become a serious problem for pregnant women. Women who experience intense symptoms should seek emergency medical attention.

In some cases, intravenous fluids may be necessary. In any case, pregnant women should always speak to a doctor before taking any kind of medication.

Severe nausea reflects an increase in hormone levels. Recent studies have suggested that sickness during pregnancy may serve to protect the fetus from potentially harmful foods.

Nausea tends to appear at around 4–6 weeks of pregnancy. In general, it will disappear by the 13th week.

For most women, relief from nausea and vomiting arrives naturally with the start of the second trimester.

However, around 20% of pregnant women may require medical treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum.

Although there is no cure for this condition, making certain lifestyle changes may help relieve the symptoms.

How to identify hyperemesis gravidarum

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: What Pregnant Women Need to Know

Hyperemesis gravidarum is different from a typical bout of morning sickness. These symptoms can help to distinguish the two conditions:

  • Nausea is always accompanied by severe vomiting, unlike in other cases of morning sickness where the feeling may go away on its own.
  • When nausea is caused by hyperemesis gravidarum, it doesn’t always disappear after the 12th week of pregnancy.
  • The symptoms may lead to extreme dehydration.
  • Unlike normal morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum results in an inability to keep food down. This rarely happens in cases of morning sickness.
  • Women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum may develop an aversion to certain types of food.
  • Fainting.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Weight loss of at least 5% of body weight.
  • Infrequent urination.
  • Episodes of anxiety, depression, extreme fatigue and confusion.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • In some cases, jaundice may occur.

Treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum

Mothers-to-be who have hyperemesis gravidarum will often need to stay in the hospital for inpatient treatment. The treatment protocol for this condition includes:

  • Administration of intravenous fluids. These may include the vitamins, nutrients and electrolytes that the body needs.
  • The patient may be fed via a nasogastric tube (through the nose) or percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (through the abdomen to the stomach).
  • Doctors may prescribe antacid or antihistamine medication.

Other less orthodox treatments may include acupressure, hypnosis and herbal remedies.

It is important to consult your doctor before trying one of these alternative remedies, however. Above all, specialists advise future moms never to self-medicate.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.