Health and Fitness Pregnancy

What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

Pregnancy can bring with it a lot of side effects, one of the less welcome being hyperemesis gravidarum. Get to know more about the condition here...

Around eight in ten of us will experience some degree of nausea or morning sickness in pregnancy, but for some it can be so intense and debilitating it can lead to hospitalisation due to dehydration and struggles keeping down any food or drink.

Hyperemesis gravidarum became more recognised amongst the wider population when it was revealed that the Duchess of Cambridge was experiencing it during all three of her pregnancies with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. And now influencer Chessie King has shared her own experiences with the condition during her pregnancy, revealing that she had possibly even fractured a rib due to persistent vomiting throughout the day and night. But just what is hyperemesis gravidarum and what causes it? We’ve rounded up what you need to know.

Chessie King hyperemesis  gravidarum
Chessie King has had hyperemesis gravidarum during her pregnancy (Photo: Instagram)

What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

Hyperemesis gravidarum is thought to affect between one to three in 100 women in pregnancy, and is where nausea and vomiting is so severe it can impact on daily life and prevent women from keeping down food or drink. It can also last beyond the 16 to 20 week mark where we typically expect morning sickness to end.

What are the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum?

According to the NHS, symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum include prolonged and severe nausea and vomiting, being dehydrated, weight loss, and low blood pressure when standing.

What causes hyperemesis gravidarum?

It isn’t known exactly what causes hyperemesis gravidarum, but it is thought to be linked to changing hormones in pregnancy. There is some evidence that it runs in families, so you may be more likely to experience it if your mother or sister have too. If you’ve had hyperemesis gravidarum once, you may be more likely to have it again in subsequent pregnancies.

The Duchess of Cambridge told Giovanna Fletcher about her own experiences with hyperemesis gravidarum (Photo: Instagram)

What is the treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum?

There are a few medicines that can be used in pregnancy to help improve the symptoms of HG. These include anti-sickness drugs, vitamins (B6 and B12) and steroids, or combinations of these.

Treatment can also include intravenous fluids, which are given directly into a vein through a drip. The anti-sickness drugs may also need to be given via a vein or a muscle if you have severe vomiting.

What do women who have experienced hyperemesis gravidarum have to say?

Chessie King told her 810,000 Instagram followers that she could “open a pharmacy” with the amount of medication she has been prescribed, adding: “There’s a tidal wave of emotions every time I’m sick and initially a heavy sense of guilt at the start, for causing the tiny little human inside me distress… but after being reassured by her power kicks, I am just so in awe of my body for protecting her in her little cocoon.”

Kate Middleton, meanwhile, told Giovanna Fletcher in the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast that the experience led her to look into hypnobirthing.

MORE: Why hypnobirthing is one of the best things you can do in pregnancy

“It was through hyperemesis that I really realized the power of the mind over the body because I really had to try everything and everything to try and help me through it,” she said. “I’m not going to say that William was standing there sort of, chanting sweet nothings at me. He definitely wasn’t! I didn’t even ask him about it, but it was just something I wanted to do for myself.”

If you think you’re experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum it’s important to seek help from your doctor or midwife.

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