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02nd Nov 2023

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The severe morning sickness explained


Morning sickness is a symptom of pregnancy that many will graciously accept.

Considering eight in every 10 people will feel sick, or vomit, during their pregnancy, it’s to be expected.

However, if you’re throwing up several times a day and feeling ill for longer periods of time, it may be an indication of Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

According to the HSE, this is much worse than regular morning sickness during pregnancy and it also lasts for longer than regular pregnancy sickness.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum this is the medical name for severe sickness and vomiting during gestation.

Between one and three out of every 100 pregnant people get Hyperemesis Gravidarum, according to the HSE.


While the cause of this condition is unknown, it is suspected to be brought on by hormonal changes during pregnancy, by nutritional problems (a lack of vitamin B6 can exasperate symptoms), or genetics.

If a person experiences it with one pregnancy, they may again during any future pregnancies.


Hyperemesis Gravidarum has a number of identifiable symptoms that can, unfortunately, impact daily life.

Firstly, the obvious ones, severe sickness, as well as vomiting forcefully and frequently.

Other symptoms can include tiredness, extra saliva, headaches, and weight loss.

However, it is highly advised that any pregnant person who is losing weight, experiencing dizziness, or is dehydrated talk to their GP.

It is imperative that anyone who is vomiting multiple times a day, is vomiting blood, or cannot keep fluids down for 24 hours, contact their GP or their maternity hospital urgently.

Other symptoms that are cause for concern include:

  • Peeing a dark colour
  • Peeing less than normal
  • Have not peed for 8 hours
  • Feel pain when peeing
  • Have blood in your pee


To alleviate symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum during pregnancy, there are a number of medications that can be taken.

These include anti-sickness drugs, vitamins B6 and B12, and steroids.

Folic acid and other pregnancy supplements can also help to decrease sickness and should be taken every day for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, at minimum.

The HSE advises taking these when you do not feel sick to prevent throwing them up.

Always check with your GP before taking medications to see what works for you.


If symptoms are severe, hospital treatment may be required to check the mother and baby’s health. This is also the case if there are other medical conditions present that can complicate the symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

Treatment at home

If a GP is satisfied that a pregnant patient does not need hospital intervention, there are other ways to treat the symptoms at home.

These include:

  • resting
  • planning ahead to avoid work at times when symptoms are worse
  • avoiding things that you know trigger your sickness – such as strong smells
  • drinking plenty of fluids – if you struggle to keep water down, you could try ice lollies or watermelon
  • having drinks with ginger, fennel or peppermint to help reduce sickness
  • eating small snacks every 2 to 3 hours – carbohydrates (like crackers or biscuits) are best
  • not eating and drinking at the same time – some women say this reduces sickness
  • acupressure – a type of massage where you press on certain parts of your body (pressure points) with your fingers

The HSE emphasise that an unhealthy diet at this time is not something to worry about. The main goal is to avoid losing weight. Once sickness improves, then a healthy and balanced diet should be reimplemented.