What is Hyperemesis gravidarum?
Hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG, is an uncommon condition that is much more severe than normal pregnancy sickness. It is severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, also known as 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:
- Prolonged and severe nausea and vomiting
- Dehydration caused by the vomiting
- Ketosis - raised levels of toxic acidic chemicals in the blood called ketones
- Losing weight due to inability to keep food down
- Low blood pressure, known as hypotension, especially on standing up
- Risk of DVT - deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in a vein) - due to dehydration
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. And this lasts for weeks and weeks and weeks. It can last throughout the whole pregnancy for some very unfortunate women.
What other consequences are there for mother and baby?
Women suffering from the condition may also be in need of emotional support. The Pregnancy Support Trust suggests joining a local support network or online community. It also says some women may benefit from therapies such as hypnosis from a medical hypnotherapist after a checking with their midwife or doctor first.
It also suggests preparing 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?
The Pregnancy Support Trust says hyperemesis gravidarum affects around one 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.