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Not Just Morning Sickness: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

by Jane Wangersky | October 27th, 2014 | Pregnancy

L8953674The Duchess of Cambridge has once again put hyperemesis gravidarum in the news, and even someone who knew nothing about it would have learned a couple of facts just by following her story: It’s debilitating enough to make a woman cancel her daily activities, and it doesn’t go away after the first pregnancy.

But what are the other facts about this condition?

Possibly the most important is that it’s rare. Britain’s National Health Service estimates it affects about one in 200 women. You’re not likely to suffer from it — though if you do, there’s help.

Hyperemesis gravidarum means literally “excess vomiting” (in Greek) “of pregnancy” (in Latin). It’s often abbreviated as HG.

Though similar to morning sickness — they often get confused in people’s minds — it’s much more severe. It can involve not being able to keep anything down, to the point where you’re losing weight while pregnant and/or have to be given nutrients and water intravenously. If HG is left untreated, it can lead to a number of serious health problems. gives this list of symptoms:

Nausea that does not go away
Vomiting several times every day
Weight loss
Reduced appetite
Feeling faint or fainting

The site also recommends “dry, bland foods and fluids together” as your first home treatment. So the folk remedy, a cracker, may help if you remember to drink your flat ginger ale (or whatever) with it. Of course, you should also see your doctor if you’re showing any of these symptoms. But meanwhile you’ll want to do something about them right away.

When you see the doctor, you may get a prescription for an anti-emetic (medication to stop vomiting). There are several safe ones for pregnancy. Some anti-emetics, such as Ondansetron (Zofran) have caused concern, and so have corticosteroids. You may want to research possible prescription meds before your doctor visit.

According to Wikipedia (I know, but these are just sidelights), acupuncture isn’t effective on HG, and ginger, as in the flat ginger ale I mentioned above, may be better than a placebo. As always, the issue with alternative medicine is that it’s largely unregulated. also reports “Usually, women with HG begin to feel better by the 20th week of pregnancy. But some women vomit and feel nauseated throughout all three trimesters.” So the odds are you’ll feel better some time before the baby’s born.

These are some of the things we know about HG, and research is ongoing.

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