Pregnancy Information

What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have announced that they are expecting their third child! This is undoubtedly an exciting and happy time for the whole family, though the Duchess is suffering from pregnancy condition Hyperemesis Gravidarum for the third time. So, what is HG?

HG is extreme sickness during pregnancy. It affects 1% of women with pregnancy sickness and is deeply unpleasant for sufferers. Women experiencing HG are often sick many times a day and are usually completely unable to keep food or drink down due to the excessive nausea and vomiting. The condition often needs hospital treatment.

But, most people get sickness during their pregnancy, don’t they?

Around 7 in 10 women experience sickness during their pregnancy, this often improves or disappears by around 14 weeks. HG is a completely different ball game, with sickness levels of suffers being relentless and much higher than the “normal” expected levels. It may not clear up completely until the baby is born, although some symptoms may improve at around 20 weeks.

What are the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum?
  • prolonged and severe nausea and vomiting – some women report being sick up to 50 times a day
  • dehydration – not having enough fluids in your body because you can’t keep drinks down; if you’re drinking less than 500ml a day, you need to seek help
  • ketosis – a serious condition that results in the build-up of acidic chemicals in the blood and urine; ketones are produced when your body breaks down fat, rather than glucose, for energy
  • weight loss
  • low blood pressure (hypotension) when standing

It is important that you seek medical advice if you are unable to keep any food or fluids down as you can become dehydrated very quickly when suffering with HG.

What causes it?

Nobody knows for sure, though some experts believe it is linked to the changing hormones in your body that occur during pregnancy.

There is some evidence that it runs in families, so if you have a mother or sister who has had HG in a pregnancy, you may be more likely to get it yourself.

If you have had HG in a previous pregnancy, you are more likely to get it in your next pregnancy than women who have never had it before too.

More information or support

The charity Pregnancy Sickness Support has lots of information on the condition, and can offer much needed support to those suffering. The chair of the charity, Caitlin Dean, answers what is HG and what you can do if you’re suffering in this guest blog.

About the author

Lisa Newhouse