Starvation ketosis outside pregnancy is rare and infrequently causes a severe acidosis. Placental production of hormones, including glucagon and human placental lactogen, leads to the insulin resistance that is seen in pregnancy, which in turn increases susceptibility to ketosis particularly in the third trimester. Starvation ketoacidosis in pregnancy has been reported and is usually precipitated by a period of severe vomiting. Ketoacidosis is likely to have important implications for fetal survival as ketoacidosis in women with type 1 diabetes mellitus is associated with intrauterine death. This article features four cases of women with vomiting in the third trimester of pregnancy associated with a severe metabolic acidosis. The mechanism underlying ketogenesis, the evidence for accelerated ketogenesis in pregnancy and other similar published cases are reviewed. A proposed strategy for management of these women is presented.
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