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What Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were forced to make an early announcement about Catherine’s pregnancy due to her hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) that landed her in the hospital.

While the world was thrilled by their news, many had never heard of HG and those women who've experienced it personally have offered their knowing support.

The word "hyperemesis" basically means vomiting excessively while "gravidarum" refers to a pregnant woman.

While many women report vomiting in the early weeks of their pregnancies, HG is a much more severe form that requires serious attention.

It is estimated that HG occurs in 0.3 – 1 percent of pregnant women, which is a relatively small subset considering about 50-80 percent of women experience "normal" nausea and vomiting.

The condition can be so severe that women may lose significant body weight due to malnourishment, as they are not able to eat or drink because of the nausea, and then they have excessive vomiting.

Women with HG often require medical treatment (as is the case with the Duchess of Cambridge) as IV fluids are needed to prevent dehydration and medications for nausea may be necessary.

HG can affect a pregnant woman’s electrolyte balance, her kidney function, and create problems with the stomach and esophagus as well as affect the growing fetus.

Unfortunately, those who experience HG with their first pregnancy will often go on to have it with subsequent pregnancies.

The exact cause of HG is unknown with many speculating about genetics, hormones, and over-sensitivity to HCG in the body, plus other more significant conditions, such as gastrointestinal or liver problems.

Some believe that carrying twins increases the risk for HG due to the increased hormone and HCG level in the body. The concern for the baby stems form the fact that they have a higher risk for being born early, born underweight and born small for their age.

As for non-HG women with nausea and vomiting, hydration and nourishment is very important for women with HG. The medical community often uses B-vitamins in IV or injection to help such as B1, B6 and B12.

The herb ginger, especially when used in the form of a candy to suck on or as tea, has anti-nausea effects. Acupuncture has also been shown to be helpful for both nausea and vomiting.

Hyperemesis gravidarum should not be taken lightly. A pregnant woman experiencing excessive nausea and vomiting causing weight loss should immediately consult with their medical provider or proceed to the nearest hospital for full evaluation.

Thankfully the Duchess did just that and will hopefully go on to have a wonderful pregnancy.


1. ACOG Guidelines for Treating Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnant Women Reviewed. Web. 9 December, 2012.

2. Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: Blooming or bloomin’ awful? A review of the literature. Web. 9 December, 2012.

3. Treatment of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Web. 9 December, 2012.

Reviewed December 10, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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