Severe sickness in pregnancy, otherwise known as hyperemesis gravidarum, is much less common than it used to be. Nausea is a very common symptom in early pregnancy, frequently associated with a certain amount of vomiting. If vomiting becomes excessive then the pregnant woman will show signs of starvation by the presence of acetone in her urine (and it is for this reason that each woman’s urine is tested at the antenatal clinic for acetone as well as for sugar and protein).
The sickness which occurs normally in early pregnancy and perhaps again in later pregnancy is discussed with its management and normal treatment. If these measures fail and the pregnant woman continues to vomit almost everything she eats as well as everything she drinks she will rapidly become ill.
Hyperemesis gravidarum used to be considered a psychological condition in which a woman induced vomiting to obtain attention and a termination of her pregnancy. To stop this she would be told that on no account would her pregnancy be terminated. Today this is considered a somewhat dated approach and the whole management and treatment have changed.
The woman is admitted to hospital and given special drugs which stop the vomiting within a few hours. Fluids containing sugar and other nutrients are fed into a vein until she is able to drink by mouth and take a light diet without vomiting. The condition is usually corrected within a few days. Hyperemesis gravidarum is today a rare condition and when it does occur it is usually connected with a multiple pregnancy or a hydatidiform mole or as a result of some hidden infection especially in the urinary tract.