People

Hyperemesis gravidarum: More than just ‘morning sickness’


Children's Memorial Hermann
By Shea Connelly | September 10, 2014

The term “hyperemesis gravidarum” is receiving a lot of attention this week thanks to the announcement of the Duchess of Cambridge’s second pregnancy, and it has many people wondering — what exactly does that mean?

Often described as “severe morning sickness,” HG goes far beyond the symptoms experienced by most expectant mothers. Though 70 to 80 percent of pregnant women experience the nausea and vomiting associated with typical morning sickness, only an estimated 0.5 to 2 percent of women suffer from HG.

“We tend to make a diagnosis of hyperemesis when a person is throwing up so much that they’re losing weight and are unable to feed themselves and hydrate themselves, or when we see electrolyte imbalance from nausea or vomiting,” said Alfredo F. Gei, M.D., a maternal fetal specialist associated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). “They can lose a significant amount of weight and even present neurological abnormalities as well from lack of absorption of vitamins.”

When a woman’s body is working on nourishing a growing baby, losing weight is not a good sign. Along with the possibility of dehydration and lack of nutrition, women suffering from HG often need specialized care. Not only is the mother suffering, but the baby is at risk for growth impairment if mom cannot eat properly, or at all.

“Treatment is based on replacement of fluids and electrolytes, and then we use anti-emetics, which are substances that prevent mom from throwing up further,” Gei said. “We frequently use also antacid medications and sometimes we even use steroids to treat the nausea and vomiting, which is rare but sometimes we have to.”

Occasionally, women may be unable to keep any food down and require enteral, or tube feedings. On the bright side, the condition is not associated with any increased risk in miscarriage. In fact, just the opposite, women suffering from extreme nausea and vomiting can have lower rates of miscarriage. Still, HG is debilitating and can affect daily life for an expectant mother, sometimes for the duration of her pregnancy.

As Duchess Catherine has demonstrated, women who suffer from HG one time are more likely to have it again in subsequent pregnancies. Women carrying multiples — twins, triplets, quadruplets — are also more likely to have it, because they have higher concentrations of human chorionic gonadotropin, the hormone believed to cause the symptoms.

Thanks to the frenzy surrounding both the Duchess’ pregnancies, HG has been in the spotlight over the past couple of years, providing more information about a condition that many might otherwise brush aside as “typical” pregnancy nausea.

“Anytime that an important person has a disease, it sort of brings awareness about it to other folks,” Dr. Gei said. “Not everybody that vomits during pregnancy has hyperemesis, but it’s certainly a symptom that should not be dismissed.”




Social Posts

profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

RT @SandyMcKayMD: @TXPeds proud of @UTHealth residents for making it a true daily double and making the right answer in Jacobi Jug. Bring h…

21 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Listening to audiobooks while working out and trying to be as active as she can are just some of the ways dietitian Ann McMeans stays fit. See more of her healthy habits: https://t.co/0IgjhfKzMR #healthy #habits https://t.co/rZPxORppah

41 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Some #cancer therapies can lead survivors to develop leukemia later on. Our @garciamanero shares how new research is helping predict which patients are most at risk: https://t.co/7s4XNeG7IR @cure_magazine #endcancer

55 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMHouston_News: When it floods, walking in water is sometimes unavoidable. Here is what to watch out for in the days following exposur…

56 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

RT @BCMCancerCenter: Learn about the latest updates in immunotherapy as well as hear from other cancer patients about their experience with…

1 hour ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

@Majormac1 Sending good vibes your way, Robin.

1 hour ago
profile_image

Harris Health System

@harrishealth

Happy Fall! https://t.co/wjF8teaVxm

2 hours ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Learn more about the rise of the anti-vaccination movement in @TexasChildrens second season of Outcomes. Listen here: https://t.co/4a9hcW4WyQ #OutcomesPodcast #TexasChildrens https://t.co/MxsKLH8Ory

2 hours ago
profile_image

TexasHeartInstitute

@Texas_Heart

RT @MoveItMonday: You don't have to leave your chair to #MoveItMonday! Try these three simple chair yoga exercises to stretch away stress,…

2 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @houstonalumni: Naming the mascot “Shasta” was an idea that came in 1947 when Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity bought UH’s first live…

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

#Clinicaltrials are at the core of our mission to #endcancer. Learn from our Dr. Patrick Hwu how they help us discover new treatments to benefit future and current patients: https://t.co/ENqWbPrvNt https://t.co/Jkuu9JlXbg

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Charles J. Gestrich, who served as a railway mail clerk during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953: https://t.co/6mzBvGdZtR

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

@USMC Veteran Kionte lost his leg in an IED blast. During recovery, he experienced depression and sought support. Visit https://t.co/tBxE005jeW to hear more about Kionte’s journey back to physical and mental health.

2 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

Malawi’s national adoption of affordable neonatal CPAP technology developed at @Rice360atRiceU resulted in sustained improvements in the survival of babies with respiratory illness, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. https://t.co/mYtNlEf8uz

3 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

@USMC Veteran Kionte lost his leg in an IED blast. During his recovery, he experienced depression and sought support. Visit https://t.co/tBxE005jeW to hear more about Kionte’s journey back to physical and mental health.

3 hours ago