Risks & Outcomes
Most mothers who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) will have healthy babies, but may endure much misery along the way. Early intervention by knowledgeable physicians can mean an easier pregnancy with less risk of complications for mother and child.
Although you may have great concern over the use of any medication during pregnancy, many antiemetics have been used for years, perhaps even decades, with little if any known increase in the risk to the baby. A mother who is chronically dehydrated and malnourished may also increase the risk of delayed growth and development in her unborn child. So, you will need to discuss with your doctor which option is best.
A very small percentage of women will have something go wrong along the way, despite not taking any medications or having HG. The actual cause may never be known. Even when a mother takes a medication and the child has some abnormality, there are so many other factors that may be the actual cause, including genetics, environmental factors, or other health problems. Yet because of the enormous fear many have of taking medications, medications are typically blamed for any problems. Refusing any medication is not necessarily the safest option.
If a mom is so sick that she is unable to eat for months, and fails to gain weight for two consecutive trimesters, she is at much greater risk for having preterm labor, prolonged recovery time, as well as other serious complications. The baby may also be unable to gain sufficient weight, and may develop slower as well. It is important to keep focused both on the health of the mother and the unborn child. Severe, prolonged symptoms present the greatest risk to both and require aggressive treatment.
The challenge health professionals face in caring for women with HG is weighing the risks of potential complications and misery with the actual or perceived risks of medications and nutritional therapies. Such interventions are often given after more conservative measures such as diet changes fail, however, the delay in treatment may make the vomiting cycle more resistant to medical care.
There are a number of medications that have been used and deemed safe due to their long history of use without significant increases in fetal abnormalities. Yet, newer drugs (e.g. serotonin antagonists) often prove to be much more effective, and do not appear to pose a risk to the unborn child. Often they have fewer side-effects in the mother as well. Physicians often are not aware of these medications for the treatment of HG and thus are very reluctant or even unwilling to use them. They offer hope to women suffering from HG and should be considered when conservative care is inadequate.
If you feel a second opinion is needed, please see our Referral Network page for info on how to find a doctor and see if one is listed in your area.
Updated on: Apr. 18, 2013