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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Hyperemesis Gravidarum
      Category : Health Centers > Pregnancy and Childbirth

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Alternate Names : Severe Vomiting in Pregnancy

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Hyperemesis gravidarum, also called HEG, is severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It results in dehydration, weight loss, and a disturbance in the acid-base balance in the body.

Around half of all pregnant women have some nausea and/or vomiting during the first few months of pregnancy. But HEG occurs in less than 2 percent of all pregnancies (less than 5 in 1000 women).

What is going on in the body?

In most cases, nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is mild and does not last long. When it becomes so severe that it interferes with getting enough fluids and nutrients, the woman may need to be treated.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There is much that is not known about the causes and risks related to HEG. Much more study is needed before experts will have definite answers.


The exact cause of pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting remains unclear. Some studies suggest the following:

  • There may be a link between high levels of estrogen or human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone that helps the unborn baby to develop.
  • There is a link between overactive thyroids, a lack of Vitamin B-6, also called pyridoxine, and psychological factors.
  • A link between bacteria called Helicobacter pylori and HEG may exist.
  • Risks

    No one race seems to be at risk for HEG, but it is less common in the following races:

  • American Indian
  • Eskimo
  • African natives
  • Asian natives, other than Japan
  • The risk for HEG seems to decrease as women grow older. Cigarette smoking also seems to lower the risk. However, smoking presents other risks to the unborn baby, so should not be used as a preventive factor!

    Experts believe the following factors may increase the risk for HEG:

  • being pregnant for the first time
  • being pregnant with twins, triplets, or more
  • having HEG with a previous pregnancy
  • being overweight
  • trophoblastic disease of the womb


    Next section


    Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eva Martin, MD
    Reviewer: Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 10/22/02

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