Around 7 out of every 10 pregnant women experience nausea or vomiting. Up to 1 in every 100 pregnant women experience excessive vomiting known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). They often need hospital treatment as they are unable to eat.
Symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum
- Severe nausea and vomiting
- Dehydration which results from not having enough fluids in your body because you can’t keep drinks down
- Ketosis which is a serious condition that results in the build-up of acidic chemicals in the blood and urine
- Weight loss
- Low blood pressure when standing
How it progresses
Unlike regular pregnancy sickness, HG may not get better by 14 weeks. It may not clear up completely until the baby is born, although some symptoms may improve at around 20 weeks. See your doctor if you have severe nausea and vomiting.
It’s not known what causes HG, or why some women get it and others don’t. Some doctors believe it is linked to the changing hormones in your body that occur during pregnancy.
Treating hyperemesis gravidarum
Safe medications that improve the symptoms of HG include:
- Anti-sickness drugs
- Vitamins (B6 and B12)
Evidence suggests that the earlier you start treatment, the more effective it will be. You may need to try different types of medication until you find what works best for you. Always talk to your doctor before you take any medication.
Need for hospital admission
If your vomiting cannot be controlled, you may need to be admitted to the hospital so that doctors can assess your condition and give you the right treatment to protect you and your little one.
Will it harm my baby?
HG is unpleasant, but the good news is it’s unlikely to harm your baby unless you lose too much weight during pregnancy, which increases the risk that your baby may be born smaller than expected.
You may also need special support
HG can affect you both emotionally and physically. The symptoms not only make your life a misery but may lead to further health complications, such as depression. The illness can be exhausting and stop you from doing everyday tasks. You might also feel:
- Anxious about going out or being too far from home in case you need to vomit
- Isolated and confused as to why this is happening to you
- Unsure whether you can cope with the rest of the pregnancy if you continue to feel very ill
How to get emotional support?
Talk to your partner, family, or doctor, and explain the impact HG is having on your life and how it is making you feel.
- Treatment of Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2231543/ )
- Severe Vomiting During Pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum), Pregnancy, Birth and Baby, Healthdirect Australia (https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/severe-vomiting-during-pregnancy-hyperemesis-gravidarum )
- Severe Vomiting in Pregnancy, National Health Service (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/severe-vomiting-in-pregnancy-hyperemesis-gravidarum/)