What Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

Morning sickness is without a doubt one of the most unpleasant aspects of pregnancy. For the people who experience nausea during pregnancy, it can strike at any time of day, disrupting routine activities and overall quality of life (per Women and Birth). Morning sickness is more severe for some people than others. Some women experience only occasional nausea that is easily alleviated by munching on a cracker or two, while others may have nausea and vomiting so unbearable that they consider terminating a planned pregnancy (per BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth).

While mild morning sickness may actually be beneficial for a pregnancy, around 3% of pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting so severe that it poses health risks to themselves and their babies, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Individuals and their unborn children may begin to lose out on beneficial nutrients. What is this condition called, and is there any way for pregnant people to relieve its symptoms?

Symptoms and risks of hyperemesis gravidarum

This condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum, and researchers believe that it may be caused by hormones released by the placenta, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. People with hyperemesis gravidarum experience severe vomiting that does not allow them to hold down necessary food and liquids, and they often show signs of dehydration, such as weakness and constipation. They may also experience food aversion, headaches, confusion, fainting, extreme fatigue, low blood pressure, and rapid heart rate. Typically, the symptoms begin about a month into the pregnancy and peak at 9-13 weeks. Symptoms often begin to subside after 14-20 weeks, but up to 20% of women with this condition need care throughout their entire pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

Left untreated, people with this condition will start losing weight, which can affect the birth weight of their baby (per Obstetrics & Gynecology). TheĀ Cleveland Clinic suggests calling your doctor if you vomit more than twice a day, have nausea that lasts all day and prevents you from eating and drinking, experience weight loss, have bloody or brown vomit, have a fast heart rate, or show signs of dehydration.