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Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Severe Morning Sickness

Katlyn Joy | 6, December 2012


On Thursday, December 6, 2012, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge was released from a London hospital after receiving treatment for acute morning sickness. The duchess, still in her first trimester of pregnancy, had been in the hospital since Monday and received visits from her husband, Prince William each day of her stay.

Due to the sensitive nature of a royal pregnancy and privacy, we do not know the details of her symptoms or treatment, but severe morning sickness, also known as hyperemesis gravidarum, affects tens of thousands of pregnant women each year.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is not considered a serious condition and poses no real threat to either mother or child, but can lead to a miserable period of time in pregnancy.

Hyperemesis gravidarum typically is seen in the 3rd to 12th week of pregnancy with symptoms lightening after the woman reaches the second trimester. HG can be distinguished from regular morning sickness by the severity and duration of symptoms. While normal morning sickness involves nausea and possible vomiting, a diagnosis of HG requires persistent and severe vomiting. This type of vomiting can lead to dehydration and a complete inability to get any nutrition as no food or drinks can be kept on the stomach.

Other possible symptoms include fatigue, weight loss of over 5 percent of pre-pregnancy weight, dehydration, decreased urine output, headaches, loss of appetite, confusion and should dehydration set in you'll also see loss of skin elasticity, low blood pressure and rapid heart rate.


Hyperemesis gravidarum is believed to result from the increased levels of hCG, the hormone produced by the placenta. This is the same hormone that pregnancy tests monitor, by the way. As hCG levels rise, in the first few months of pregnancy, nausea and vomiting can occur.

If a woman is pregnant with twins, or more multiples, the hCG levels are higher and thus the morning sickness will often be more severe as well.

What to Do

Call your physician if you are unable to keep anything down, have symptoms of dehydration or experience severe vomiting. Your doctor may order tests such as blood work or urinalysis to check for dehydration. If there is any question, you may get a sonogram to check for twins or more.

Should you be really dehydrated and unable to get the vomiting in check, you may need to be admitted to the hospital for a few days to receive medication to alleviate symptoms and so you may receive fluids via IV.

Treating HG at Home

Keep a package of saltines at your bedside. Rise slowly each day to give your body a chance to adjust to movement and activity. Try sipping drinks like ginger ale and try to keep plenty of liquids in your system.

Other morning sickness remedies include lemon drops, peppermint tea or candies, and avoiding smells that sicken you. These may range from foods to fragrances, and may be things formerly pleasant to you.

If you crave salty foods, talk to your doctor. Often you'll be advised to eat such items you crave, within reason, because once you get something to stay on your stomach you are more likely to be able to eat a normal meal.

Avoid letting your stomach get completely empty to prevent flare ups of morning sickness. Eat frequent small meals rather than just a few big ones. This will keep the acid levels down in your tummy and help prevent indigestion and bloating which will increase nausea tendencies.

Sometimes the doctor will advise you to go on bedrest temporarily until the severe symptoms subside.

Whatever your level of morning sickness, from light cases to severe cases of hyperemesis gravidarum, rest assured that only in rare cases will the sickness go on much beyond the 12th week. Things will settle down and you can enjoy your pregnancy at last!

Related Articles

What Causes Severe Morning Sickness?

Severe Morning Sickness May Signal Healthier, Smarter Baby

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Prolonged Morning Sickness

Putting the Brakes on Morning Sickness


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