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Hyperemesis gravidarum

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

Hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG, is an uncommon condition that is much more severe than normal pregnancy sickness. It is a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP).

It can be so severe that a woman becomes dehydrated, loses weight and may have to be admitted to hospital and treated with intravenous fluids under specialist care.

What are the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum?

The symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum go far beyond the discomfort of morning sickness and require urgent medical attention. They include:

In terms of the quality of life, HG can affect a woman’s work, home life and family life due to frequent vomiting - or trying to vomit because there’s nothing in the stomach so she can’t vomit, and retches instead.

It’s been described by some women as like having your stomach turned inside out, it’s so severe. It can last for many weeks, sometimes throughout pregnancy.

What other consequences are there for mother and baby?

Women with HG may also be in need of emotional support. You could consider joining a local support network or online community. Some women may benefit from therapies such as hypnosis from a medical hypnotherapist after a checking with their midwife or doctor first.

It may help to prepare an 'HG survival kit' to include food and snacks a woman is able to eat as well as bags and wipes for unexpected vomiting.

Is there any risk that hyperemesis gravidarum can cause a woman to lose her baby?

The NHS says hyperemesis gravidarum is unlikely to cause harm to an unborn baby. However, left untreated, weight loss during pregnancy may lead to a baby having a low birth weight.

How many pregnant women are affected by hyperemesis gravidarum?

Hyperemesis gravidarum affects around 1 in 100 pregnant women with morning sickness.

Is there anything that pregnant women can do themselves to alleviate the symptoms?

Experts suggest trying to move less, avoiding tasks such as cleaning the house may help, as any movement may exacerbate the feeling of nausea.

Rest and relaxation may be recommended as well as avoiding some smells, including food or cooking odours.

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Reviewed on May 13, 2016

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