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What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum in Pregnancy?

4 weeks ago6 min read
Last updated: Jan 20 2023

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a severe form of pregnancy nausea and vomiting. It can make you dehydrated and you might need to be hospitalized.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum in Pregnancy

About 65% of mamas-to-be experience nausea or vomiting during their pregnancy, often in the first few weeks.

But rarely, your nausea and vomiting might be so severe that you’re diagnosed with a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).











So, what is hyperemesis gravidarum, and how is it treated?

Hang tight, mama. We’re here to answer all your questions.

In this article: 📝

  • What is the difference between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum?
  • What is the cause of hyperemesis gravidarum?
  • How is hyperemesis diagnosed?
  • What are hyperemesis gravidarum symptoms?
  • Is there a “Do I have hyperemesis gravidarum?” quiz you can take?
  • What are the risks of hyperemesis gravidarum?
  • Does hyperemesis affect the baby?
  • What are some hyperemesis gravidarum treatment options?

What is the difference between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum?

Morning sickness — or as we prefer to call it, pregnancy nausea — is mainly a reaction to the hCG hormones that rise during pregnancy.

While pregnancy nausea isn’t a huge amount of fun, you should be able to carry on with your life most of the time.

And it usually goes away between weeks 12 and 14, though it can continue a little longer.

Hyperemesis gravidarum, on the other hand, is much more extreme.

With HG, your nausea and vomiting are nearly constant.

They can be so severe that you could get dehydrated because you can’t keep any food or fluids down.

You might even need to be hospitalized.

Usually, HG gets worse between weeks 9 and 13 and subsides between weeks 16 and 24.

Again, though, this is only an estimate.

Every pregnancy is different.

HG isn’t a very common condition, and only affects between 0.5 and 2% of pregnant women.

What is the cause of hyperemesis gravidarum?

It’s possible that there are a few hyperemesis gravidarum causes.

In the past, many theories suggested that HG, just like more moderate pregnancy nausea, was connected to the pregnancy hormone hCG.

But more recent studies (such as here and here) have linked HG to a rise in a protein called GDF15 (the short form of growth/differentiation factor-15).

These studies show that there’s actually no link between hCG and HG, but that there are usually abnormally high levels of GDF15 in women who have HG.

This, it seems, is the protein to keep an eye on.

This study also suggests that HG is hereditary.

If your mother had it, there’s a chance you might have it, too.

Other risk factors that might contribute to HG include:

  • Being pregnant for the first time
  • Having had HG before
  • Having more than one baby
  • Having a high body weight
  • Having certain allergies
  • Having a restrictive diet

How is hyperemesis diagnosed?

The only way to know for sure if you have hyperemesis gravidarum is to speak to your doctor.

They’ll take a look at your symptoms and your medical history, give you a physical exam, and possibly run some tests on your blood and urine.

What are hyperemesis gravidarum symptoms?

If you think you might have hyperemesis gravidarum, here are a few symptoms to look out for.

The most common one is how often and how severely you feel nauseous or vomit.

If you’re experiencing either of these symptoms more than five times a day, you should definitely go and see a doctor, mama.

Other symptoms include:

Is there a “Do I have hyperemesis gravidarum?” quiz you can take?

You bet.

A Japanese tech start-up has developed an online quiz that you can take for free.

It’s worth taking a look if you think you might have hyperemesis gravidarum.

But if you’re feeling so ill that it’s affecting your health and your quality of life, it’s definitely best to see a doctor.

What are the risks of hyperemesis gravidarum?

While hyperemesis gravidarum is a serious condition, we understand it and know how to treat it better now than we have ever before.

If you’re diagnosed with it, your doctor will keep a close eye on you and recommend the best treatment option to help you feel better.

Is hyperemesis a high-risk pregnancy?

Yes, doctors will take an HG diagnosis seriously, mostly because you’re likely to lose weight and easily become dehydrated.

It’s important to remember that only in very rare cases is HG life-threatening.

With the right treatment, your terrible nausea should subside, and you and your baby should be fine.

Does hyperemesis affect the baby?

It’s possible that your baby may be affected by HG if it’s left untreated.

HG babies are more likely to be smaller in the womb, have a lower weight when they’re born, and be born prematurely.

There’s also research that suggests that untreated HG might lead to a higher risk of neurodevelopmental delays, like autism, ADHD, learning difficulties, depression, anxiety, and sensory disorders.

Luckily, the right treatment can prevent these outcomes.

So speak with your doctor if you have any concerns at all, even if you’re not totally sure you have HG.

What are some hyperemesis gravidarum treatment options?

How you’re treated for hyperemesis gravidarum will depend on how sick you are.

Your doctor might suggest:

Preventive measures

If you’re at risk of HG, there are a few preventative measures you can try.

Wearing a pressure-point wristband (like the ones used for motion sickness) might help.

And your doctor might also suggest that you increase your intake of vitamin B6 and ginger, which could ease your nausea.

Small frequent meals

Eating small meals regularly, rather than larger meals, is a common treatment option.

Eating dry food, like crackers, might help, too.

Drink as much water as you can to make sure you stay hydrated.

Hospitalization

It’s common for severe HG patients to be treated in the hospital.

We know, being stuck in a hospital is less than fun.

But it’s sometimes the best thing for you and your baby.

In the hospital, you’ll receive your fluids and nutrients intravenously, which is necessary if you can’t eat or drink as normal.

Medication

You might also be given medication to counteract your bouts of nausea.

Promethazine, Meclizine, and Droperidol are the most common drugs prescribed for HG.

It’s also possible that Unisom — or its prescription cousin, Declegis — can help with nausea.

We realize that this sounds like a really tough diagnosis, mama.

But the good news is that your HG symptoms will go away once your little one is in the world.

Until then, the most important thing is to be treated as quickly as possible.

So, if you’re wondering, do I have hyperemesis gravidarum, and when should I go to the hospital?

The answer is: don’t delay.

It’s better to be safe and to get yourself on the road to feeling better. ❤️

And if you’re looking for support from other mamas-to-be with HG, check out our Peanut community.

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