Hyperemesis gravidarum

What is it? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is the term for severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP). It's not very common, affecting around 0.5-2% of mums-to-be, but it's thought there might be a hereditary element. Symptoms are so severe that it's hard for women with HG even to keep fluids down, and this can lead to dehydration and nutritional deficiency. In some cases, admission to hospital for rehydration is necessary.

Mums-to-be with HG can suffer from depression as the condition is so debilitating and often relentless: some unfortunate women suffer throughout the whole of pregnancy, although the condition usually subsides by week 21; some are put off having any subsequent babies in case they suffer from HG again – and it is common for it to recur. The condition doesn't usually have an adverse effect on unborn babies, though, unless their mums lose a dramatic amount of weight, when they may have a lower than expected birth weight.

In rare cases where HG isn't recognised or treated early, there is a risk of pre-eclampsia and premature labour.

What are the symptoms of Hyperemesis gravidarum?

Symptoms include persistent and severe bouts of vomiting or nausea; dehydration, which is characterised by thirst, fatigue, dizziness and headache; ketosis (a dangerous increase in toxic chemicals in the blood); and weight loss. Your blood pressure may also drop on standing up.

What are the treatments and remedies of Hyperemesis gravidarum?

Specialist treatment is needed for HG. You may be prescribed anti-sickness medication by your doctor. If you have ketosis or severe dehydration, you'll need to be admitted to hospital, where you'll be put on a drip to rehydrate you and replace lost nutrients, and the ketosis will be treated.

Because of this, you must tell your midwife or doctor if your pregnancy sickness is severe. To reduce symptoms try:

  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Eating and drinking little and often
  • Eat plain biscuits before getting up in the morning
  • Avoid smells or foods that trigger symptoms
  • Ginger supplements may also help but talk to your GP or pharmacist first

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

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Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net


Hyperemesis gravidarum