When Morning Sickness is Dangerous

by Diane Lofshult on Apr 01, 2008

Food for Thought

Many pregnant women experience morning sickness, usually during their first trimester. In fact, 70%–80% of pregnant women report having some degree of morning sickness, according to the American Pregnancy Association. While pesky, this condition is quite normal and (blessedly) short in duration.

However, in about 1% of pregnancies, women will experience a much more severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum, says the American Pregnancy Association. Although the condition is thought to be caused by a rise in hormone levels, the cause is still unknown.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss and electrolyte disturbances. Although mild cases react well to dietary change, rest and antacids, severe cases often require a hospital stay to allow treatment with intravenous fluids and nutrients.

So how can pregnant women differentiate between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum? Here are some distinctions between the two conditions:

Morning Sickness Hyperemesis Gravidarum
nausea (sometimes with vomiting) nausea with severe vomiting
nausea ends at 12 weeks or sooner nausea does not subside
vomiting without severe dehydration vomiting that causes severe dehydration
vomiting but can keep some food down vomiting; unable to keep any food down

Source: The American Pregnancy Association 2007.

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About the Author

Diane Lofshult

Diane Lofshult IDEA Author/Presenter

Diane Lofshult is an award-winning freelance author who specializes in nutrition and weight management topics. She is the founder of In Other Words, an editorial consulting firm based in Solana Beach, California. Reach her at lofshult@roadrunner.com.