Every day, our nurses and attorneys receive calls from expectant mothers with concerns about symptoms they’re experiencing during their pregnancy. They’re curious if their symptoms are normal, and they wonder what their next steps should be. Patients should always visit a medical professional with concerns like these and receive appropriate care for maternal-fetal conditions and illnesses that can arise during pregnancy. We kickstarted the Pregnancy Spotlight Series, a monthly column that highlights specific pregnancy health concerns, to help educate and empower patients for these medical visits. Today, we’re focusing on Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).
What Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
70-80% of all pregnant women experience some form of morning sickness during their pregnancy. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (hyper-, meaning “excessive,” emesis, meaning “vomiting” and gravidarum, meaning “pregnant woman”) is a condition which involves extreme morning sickness, including nausea, vomiting, and weight loss as its major symptoms. It is thought to be a result of high levels of pregnancy hormones, but the exact cause is not known at this time.
What Does Hyperemesis Gravidarum Look Like?
Hyperemesis Gravidarum resembles common morning sickness, but is far more severe and often extends past the first trimester. So how is Hyperemesis Gravidarum different from regular morning sickness?
The following are clear symptoms of HG:
- Nausea that does not subside with severe vomiting
- Food aversions
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight
- Loss of skin elasticity due to dehydration
- Decreased urination
How Long Does HG Last?
Many women experience relief between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, but some have symptoms throughout their entire pregnancy.
Are There Certain Risk Factors for HG?
The following groups of women tend to have HG at higher rates than their pregnant counterparts:
- Obese women
- Young moms
- First-time moms
- Women who had HG during a previous pregnancy
- Women carrying multiples
- Women whose mothers had HG
- Women with endocrine imbalances
- Women with H. pylori infection
- Women with vitamin B deficiencies
- Women with extreme emotional stress
How Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum Treated?
Minor cases of HG can be treated with more rest, dietary changes, or antacids. Severe cases may require a hospital visit where the mother receives IV fluids. They may also necessitate the use of feeding tubes, whether percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy or nasogastric ones. Doctors may recommend anti-nausea medications to their patients. It is recommended that women don’t take any medications to treat themselves without their doctor’s advice first.
Will Hyperemesis Harm the Baby?
According to the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation, research has shown that unless HG is prolonged and takes on certain symptoms, it will likely produce the same outcomes for the child as a normal pregnancy would. The prolonged aspect of HG can affect the mother’s ability to gain weight. It is dangerous for a pregnant woman to experience extreme weight loss or to not gain any weight for two consecutive trimesters.
Research suggests that prolonged malnutrition, dehydration, or stress can potentially put the unborn child at risk of chronic disease later in life, due to something called “fetal programming.”
Delayed treatment of the vomiting can cause dehydration, which has negative effects on the baby. Dehydration can lead to the following complications for your baby:
- Low amniotic fluid
- Neural tube defects
- Premature labor
- Inadequate production of breast milk
- Birth defects
Will Hyperemesis harm me?
According to a US National Library of Medicine piece, “Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Current Perspectives,” women with HG during pregnancy are likely to deal with health problems such as malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, and depression. They are also more likely to experience negative effects after pregnancy. These risks include muscle weakness, motion sickness, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
- American Pregnancy Association: Hyperemesis Gravidarum
- Hyperemesis Education & Research: About Hyperemesis Gravidarum
- American Pregnancy Association: Dehydration During Pregnancy
- What to Expect: Hyperemesis Gravidarum
- US National Library of Medicine: Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Current Perspectives
The information presented above is intended only to be a general educational resource. It is not intended to be (and should not be interpreted as) medical advice. If you have questions about the topic, please consult with a medical professional.