What is hyperemesis gravidarum?
Many pregnant women have some nausea and sometimes vomiting in the first trimester.
This is called morning sickness. Symptoms are often more severe in the morning. But
nausea and vomiting with pregnancy can happen at any time of the day. Some women may
feel sick throughout the pregnancy.
A few pregnant women have a severe kind of nausea and vomiting called hyperemesis
gravidarum. With this condition, nausea and vomiting may be all day long. These women
often lose weight, and get dehydrated. They may also have changes in the body's chemical
How to say it:
What causes hyperemesis gravidarum?
Healthcare providers don't know what causes hyperemesis gravidarum. It may be related
to pregnancy hormones.
Who is at risk for hyperemesis gravidarum?
The condition is more common in women who are pregnant with twins or more. It’s also
more common in women with migraines. Women with a family history of the condition
or who had the condition in a past pregnancy are more likely to have it with future
What are the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum?
These are the most common symptoms:
Constant nausea, especially during the first trimester
Vomiting after eating or drinking
Vomiting not linked to eating
Weight loss. This is especially true if it is 5% or more of what you weighed before
Signs of fluid loss (dehydration). These include dry mouth, thirst, small amounts
of dark urine, and feeling lightheaded.
The symptoms may look like other health conditions. Always see your healthcare provider
for a diagnosis.
How is hyperemesis gravidarum diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will review your health history and do a physical exam. They
will also look for other signs, such as weight loss and dehydration. Blood tests can
check for too little or too much of the body's minerals (electrolytes).
How is hyperemesis gravidarum treated?
Treatment aims to:
You will likely need to stay in the hospital. All food and drink are stopped for a
short time (temporarily). This gives the digestive tract a rest. You will often need
IV (intravenous) fluids to replace fluids you have lost. The IV fluids also fix problems
with minerals (electrolytes) in your body. You may need a sedative and anti-vomiting
medicine. If other treatments don't work, you may need steroids or tube feedings.
What are possible complications of hyperemesis gravidarum?
The condition can lead to:
Fluid and electrolyte problems
Liver damage and yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes (jaundice)
B vitamin (thiamine) deficiency
Poor growth of the developing baby
Key points about hyperemesis gravidarum
This condition is a severe form of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy that affects a
small number of women.
Nausea and vomiting may be constant. You may lose weight, get dehydrated, and have
changes in the body's chemicals (electrolytes).
The cause may be linked to pregnancy hormones.
It is more common in women who are pregnant with twins or more, and in women with
You may need to stay in the hospital for treatment. You will often need IV fluids
to replace fluids you have lost.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also
know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that
Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.