Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance. Mild cases are treated with dietary changes, rest and antacids. More severe cases often require a stay in the hospital so that the mother can receive fluid and nutrition through an intravenous line (IV). DO NOT take any medications to solve this problem without first consulting your health care provider.

Why is this happening to me?

Do not worry. Your body is not trying to reject the baby as some people used to think. The majority of pregnant women experience some type of morning sickness (70 – 80%). In about 1% of all pregnancies, the woman will experience extreme morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum. It is believed that nausea is caused by a rise in hormone levels; however, the absolute cause is still unknown. Hyperemesis gravidarum cannot be prevented, but you can take comfort in knowing that there are ways to manage it.

Distinguishing between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum:

Morning Sickness: Hyperemesis Gravidarum:
Nausea sometimes accompanied by vomiting Nausea accompanied by severe vomiting
Nausea that subsides at 12 weeks or soon after Nausea that does not subside
Vomiting that does not cause severe dehydration Vomiting that causes severe dehydration
Vomiting that allows you to keep some food down Vomiting that does not allow you to keep any food down

Signs and symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum:

  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Food aversions
  • Weight loss of 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight
  • Decrease in urination
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Jaundice

What are the treatments for hyperemesis gravidarum?

In some cases hyperemesis gravidarum is so severe that hospitalization may be required. Hospital treatment may include some or all of the following:

  • Intravenous fluids (IV) – to restore hydration, electrolytes, vitamins, and nutrients
  • Tube feeding:
    • Nasogastric – restores nutrients through a tube passing through the nose and to the stomach
    • Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy – restores nutrients through a tube passing through the abdomen and to the stomach; requires a surgical procedure
  • Medications – metoclopramide, antihistamines, and antireflux medications*

Other treatments may include:

  • Bed Rest –This may provide comfort, but be cautious and aware of the effects of muscle and weight loss due to too much bed rest.
  • Acupressure – The pressure point to reduce nausea is located at the middle of the inner wrist, three finger lengths away from the crease of the wrist, and between the two tendons. Locate and press firmly, one wrist at a time for three minutes. Seabands also help with acupressure and can be found at your local drug store.
  • Herbs – ginger or peppermint
  • Homeopathic remedies are a non-toxic system of medicines. Do not try to self medicate with homeopathic methods; have a doctor prescribe the proper remedy and dose.
  • Hypnosis

* When it comes to medications, it is very important that you weigh the risks and the benefits. Some drugs may have adverse effects on you or the development of your baby. Discuss the risks and side effects of each drug with your health care provider.

Last Updated: 09/2008

Compiled using information from the following sources:

Williams Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 49.

HER Foundation, www.hyperemesis.org

Leave a Reply