Symptoms and pregnancy outcomes associated with extreme weight loss among women with hyperemesis gravidarum

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2009 Dec;18(12):1981-7. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2009.1431.


Objective: To report the weight loss and associated symptoms experienced by a large cohort of women with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).

Methods: Data were obtained from an HG website registry, where women with HG were recruited on-line. Respondents were included if they experienced at least 1 live birth>27 weeks' gestation. Extreme weight loss was defined as a loss of >15% of prepregnancy weight.

Results: Of the 819 women surveyed, 214 (26.1%) met criteria for extreme weight loss. These women were twice as likely to be Hispanic or nonwhite. Extreme weight loss (p<0.001) was associated with indicators of the severity of HG, such as hospitalization and use of parenteral nutrition, and with multiple symptoms during pregnancy, such as gallbladder and liver dysfunction, renal failure, and retinal hemorrhage. Among all women surveyed, 22.0% reported that symptoms lasted throughout pregnancy; this finding was nearly twice as likely among women with extreme weight Loss: 63 of 214 (29.4%) vs. 117 of 605 (19.3%) (OR=1.73, 95% CI 1.2-2.5, p=0.003). For some women, symptoms continued postpartum and included food aversions, muscle pain, nausea, and posttraumatic stress. Approximately 16% of babies were born prematurely, and 8% reportedly weighed <2500 g. Among women with extreme weight loss, 9.3% reported having a child with a behavioral disorder.

Conclusions: Extreme weight loss is common among women with HG, suggesting that HG is a form of prolonged starvation in pregnancy and that the long-term effects of this condition on women and their offspring warrant further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperemesis Gravidarum / diagnosis*
  • Hyperemesis Gravidarum / epidemiology*
  • Hyperemesis Gravidarum / prevention & control
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology*
  • Prenatal Care / methods
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Weight Loss*
  • Women's Health
  • Young Adult