(Salt Lake City, UT) – The announcement of a royal baby was greeted with excitement around the world, as well as with concern for Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who was hospitalized with severe morning sickness, or ‘hyperemesis gravidarum’. Translated from Latin, this literally means ‘severe and excessive vomiting during pregnancy’.
“This illness can be serious,” says Al Romeo, PhD and nurse with the Utah Department of Health’s Pregnancy Risk Line (PRL), “and it isn’t just in the morning. For some women, it can last all day for weeks and even months.”
Some nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy (NVP) is usual, but when it becomes excessive, health care providers may step in to offer treatment. Hyperemesis gravidarum can cause significant problems with hydration, electrolyte balances, and nutrition.
It’s estimated that 80% of all pregnant women encounter nausea during their pregnancy. Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) impact not only the mother’s and fetus’s health, but also may affect daily responsibilities, such as work, during this period of time.
NVP can also have a negative impact on family relationships. Fortunately, there are several treatment options for hyperemesis gravidarum.
“We are speculating that Catherine is getting anti-emetic medications like ondansetron (known as Zofran) or a medication called promethazine. Both are prescribed in pregnancy to treat serious symptoms,” says University of Utah College of Pharmacy student Mike Wright. “She’s also likely getting IV fluids to replace what she’s lost from vomiting.”
The first line treatment often used by health care providers is an over-the-counter combination of doxylamine and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which is the best-studied of all NVP treatments. The combination has been shown to be the safest medication and is used frequently in Canada, but not as often in the U.S.
"Physicians have different prescribing practices here in the States and tend to give prescription ondansetron first, instead of doxylamine with B6,” said Wright, who is rotating through the Risk Line as part of his studies. “Ondansetron is a more expensive medication but is one of the strongest anti-emetics available.
“Pregnant women should talk to their health care provider before starting any medications. If you are having NVP, don’t wait long before talking to your health care provider about options,” said Dr. Romeo. “Studies have shown that the sooner medications are taken to relieve the NVP, the less likely a mom is to develop the more serious hyperemesis gravidarum and need to be hospitalized.”
For more information on pregnancy and breastfeeding, contact the Pregnancy Risk Line at 800-822-2229 (BABY). The PRL is a free service for Utah families and health care providers and has been answering questions about the effects of medicines, chemicals and other maternal exposures on a developing fetus or breastfed baby for nearly 30 years.
Media Contact:Julia Robertson
Pregnancy Risk Line