Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy - hyperemesis

Nausea and vomiting is a normal symptom of pregnancy and affects up to 90 out of 100 pregnant women to some degree.

It is often called morning sickness but in reality can occur at any time of day or night.

One in a 100 women experience more severe nausea and vomiting (called hyperemesis gravidarum). Women with hyperemesis have no relief from feeling nauseous and vomit many times each day. They find that eating and drinking makes them feel worse and can quickly lose weight and become dehydrated. The cause of hyperemesis is not known.

Will it harm my baby?Show [+]Hide [-]

No - there is no evidence that nausea and vomiting has a harmful effect on your baby. In fact you have a slightly lower risk of  miscarriage. Women with very severe nausea and vomiting may however have babies with a lower than expected birth weight.

How long will it last?Show [+]Hide [-]

Symptoms frequently begin by week six of pregnancy. In most cases subside by 12-14 weeks. In severe hyperemesis, vomiting usually lasts until 18-20 weeks. For one in six women affected it can last until the end of pregnancy.

What treatment will you need?Show [+]Hide [-]

Treatment may greatly improve your symptoms. The kind of treatment depends on the severity of your hyperemesis. If you become dehydrated you may need a short stay in hospital (six to eight hours) to give you some fluid via a ‘drip’ and anti-sickness medication.

Severe hyperemesisShow [+]Hide [-]

If hyperemesis is so severe that your body weight falls by 5% or more (for example 63kg to 60kg) you may be referred for assessment. In some women steroid therapy is advised.

Steroid treatment stops vomiting in most cases and allows weight gain. Importantly, you are likely to feel well and avoid further admission to hospital. For baby, steroids after five weeks of pregnancy are safe. For you, the side effects are the same as outside pregnancy (weight gain, temporary fullness of the face).

After dischargeShow [+]Hide [-]

You will be given anti sickness tablets to take home. If you feel much better - cut down the number of tablets. If your vomiting gets worse - stop eating but try and keep sipping fluid and taking the anti sickness tablets. You will gradually begin to feel better and can slowly start eating food again.

Remember to ask your GP for a repeat prescription before the tablets run out.

Simple measures to ease symptomsShow [+]Hide [-]

  • Rest as much as you can
  • East small, frequent snacks
  • Don’t drink and eat at same time, leave a gap of 30 minutes
  • Try plain biscuits or crackers
  • Try travel sickness wristbands available from chemists
  • Try ginger – biscuits, tea, root, stem, capsules.
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