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If HG continued past mid-pregnancy, did you experience complications during delivery related to your poor health such as a strained ligaments/joints, pelvic floor damage, prolonged or weak pushing, fainting, low blood pressure, low pain tolerance, forceps/assisted delivery, broken bones, nerve damage, low amniotic fluid, fetal problems due to difficult delivery, etc.?


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    More detailed info and research about possible complications of HG for both mother and child(ren).
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    Find ways to make the most of what you can eat.

Possible Complications

Numerous complications can result from HG if it is severe, not adequately treated or there is a delay in medical interventions. However, most women have only minor complications such as muscle atrophy, fatigue, constipation, sleep disturbance, and gastric (stomach) irritation. Long-term health problems are not yet defined and have not been studied by researchers thus far. Most seem to be related to the severity of vomiting, thus women with excessive, uncontrolled vomiting for months will have a greater chance of complications. If women with HG are given early medical care sufficient to manage their symptoms and minimize nutritional deficiencies, both mother and child will likely be healthy now and in the future.

However, some research is suggesting that prolonged stress, malnutrition and dehydration in the mother can potentially put the unborn child at risk for chronic disease (e.g. diabetes, heart disease) in later life. This has been termed "fetal programming" by researchers and is a relatively new field of study. Early, moderate weight loss (less than 5-10% of her pre-pregnancy weight) by a mother does not mean a child will necessarily have diseases in adult life, rather, severe or prolonged malnutrition as a pregnancy progresses may increase the risk of disease for the child later. Other factors such as the child's later health habits (e.g. smoking, obesity, diet) also determine if they will develop chronic health conditions. This underscores the importance of providing a mother with the care she needs, for her health and that of her baby.

Severe HG

Weight gain in the mother and adequate birth weight of the child are used to determine if nutrition is sufficient for the baby. Adverse effects of mild HG on the baby do not seem to be common, however, if moderate or severe, there is cause for concern. Severe HG usually causes the mother to rapidly lose an excessive amount of weight, continue to lose weight or gain slowly during the second half of pregnancy, and/or results in a low fetal birth weight or delayed development. Women with prolonged or severe HG are also at greater risk for preterm labor and high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), which may be related to malnutrition. Medical professionals experienced in caring for high-risk pregnancies or women with HG are critical in ensuring adequate care of these mothers. If a woman shows signs of severe HG and her care seems inadequate or she is not improving, a second opinion is often necessary. In most cases, medications and nutritional therapies can ease symptoms and allow both mother and child to avoid serious complications.

Signs of Severe HG:

  • Debilitating, chronic nausea 
  • Frequent vomiting of bile or blood
  • Chronic ketosis and dehydration
  • Muscle weakness and extreme fatigue
  • Medication does not stop vomiting/nausea
  • Inability to care for self (shower, prepare food)
  • Loss of over 5-10% of your pre-pregnancy weight
  • Weight loss (or little gain) after the first trimester
  • Inability to eat/drink sufficiently by about 14 weeks
List of Potential Complications of HG
Potential Complications: Common Signs/Symptoms: Offsite Links for more info:
Constipation Cramps, infrequent or hard stools, or difficulty passing stools MEDLINEplus Medical Encyclopedia: Constipation
Fatigue Inability to work or perform usual activities  
Atrophy - wasting or loss of muscle tissue resulting from disease or lack of use Weakness, fatigue, pain Pregnancy Bed Rest Information
Stomach ulcers or irritation Pain, nausea, food aversions NIDDK: Stomach and Duodenal Ulcers
Psychosocial Stress Depression, anxiety www.dartmouth.edu: Depression In Pregnancy

PubMed: Obstetrical complications and the development of postpartum depressive symptoms: a prospective survey of the MATQUID cohort.

PubMed: Obstetric, somatic, and demographic risk factors for postpartum depressive symptoms.
Sleep Disturbance or Insomnia Difficulty sleeping MEDLINEplus Medical Encyclopedia: Sleeping difficulty
Acid Reflux & Heartburn Throat pain, indigestion, nausea MEDLINEplus Medical Encyclopedia: Gastroesophageal reflux disease


List of Additional Complications Related to Prolonged or Severe HG
Potential Complications: Common Signs/Symptoms: Offsite Links for more info:
Kidney Failure - loss of the kidneys' ability to excrete wastes, concentrate urine, and conserve electrolytes Decreased urine output, fluid retention, changes in mental status or mood, increased blood pressure, ear noise/buzzing, breath odor, fatigue, nausea, vomiting PubMed: Acute renal failure in association with severe hyperemesis gravidarum.

MEDLINEplus Medical Encyclopedia: Acute renal failure
Deconditioning - a decrease in the responsiveness of heart muscle Fatigue, weakness, breathlessness, pain PubMed: An overview of the issues: physiological effects of bed rest and restricted physical activity.
Esophageal bleeding – Bleeding in the throat Blood in vomit and/or stool, throat pain, light-headedness NIDDK: Bleeding in the Digestive Tract
TMJ Trauma - pain or injury to the jaw joint (TMJ or TMD) Pain or stiffness when opening mouth, headaches, vision changes, clicking noises from jaw  
Hemorrhagic Retinitis - bleeding into the retina of the eye    
Jaundice - Discoloring of the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes, caused by too much bilirubin in the blood Yellow skin, mucous membranes, and eyes; itching  
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, when they are exposed to events or objects reminiscent of the trauma. May also experience emotional numbness and sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, and irritability or outbursts of anger. PubMed: Posttraumatic stress disorder and pregnancy complications.

NIMH: Reliving Trauma: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Neurological (brain) changes Vision changes (double vision, involuntary movements), confusion, disorientation, lack of muscle coordination Notify physician immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Exhaustion and/or extreme fatigue Lack of energy, weariness, or tiredness. May be unable to care for self and family.  

Updated on: Apr. 18, 2013

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