Hyperemesis gravidarum

Often mistaken for morning sickness, learn the symptoms and causes here…

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What is it?

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a rare condition involving excessive vomiting during pregnancy. This is more than morning sickness: sufferers bring up everything that they eat or drink and are unable to hold anything down for any length of time.

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What causes it?

The most likely cause is hormone changes. You are at greater risk of HG if you are having twins, triplets or more; are the daughter or sister of someone who had it during their pregnancy; or you’ve experienced it during a previous pregnancy.

What are the symptoms?

HG is the likely explanation if you are vomiting many times a day, are unable to eat and drink without vomiting, and if you are losing weight. You will feel exhausted, drained and unable to do normal things. It usually starts early – before week five of pregnancy – and eases off around week 20, but it can carry on throughout the entire pregnancy.

Our expert says…

‘Ninety per cent of women will suffer sickness in pregnancy, which is normal,’ says Henry Annan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. ‘It’s only when it is excessive and you can’t keep anything down that it’s likely you will be admitted to hospital, for dehydration. This usually helps settle things.

‘To avoid worsening symptoms, avoid big meals and fatty foods and don’t buy anything over the counter to ease the symptoms. A change in environment can help: it may be worth you stopping work for a few days and going to hospital to be rehydrated. It often gets better in these circumstances but it is recurrent. Luckily, hyperemesis gravidarum doesn’t affect the baby’s growth.’

Mum’s story:

‘I had hyperemesis gravidarum during my first pregnancy, so I knew the signs, and this time it started at around eight weeks,’ says Phillippa Chaplin, 30, mum to Ollie, five, and currently 34 weeks pregnant.

‘I had sickness from waking up and all through the day. On the worst days it was every half an hour, sometimes going on throughout the whole night as well. I was regularly admitted to the clinic throughout this pregnancy and stayed for a few days at a time, where I had a drip to rehydrate me.

‘It’s important to be assertive about getting help – the longer you leave it, the worse it gets. I was constantly told it was normal and it would pass at 12 weeks. Also, eat whatever you want, because your baby will be fine. If it stays down it’s good. Drink water all the time too because hydration is the key to the whole thing.

‘I always felt worse after doing too much, so try to rest up. It’s hard if you have other kids, but it’ll be far worse if you end up in hospital.’

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For more information about hyperemesis gravidarum ,see www.hyperemesis.org.uk

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