MedTerm Corner – Hyperemesis Gravidarum

MedTerm Corner – Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hello and welcome back to Medical Terminology Corner!

Today we will discuss Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Throughout the years, I interpreted for couple of women who had this diagnosis. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is an extreme form of morning sickness.

First, let’s break the word into its parts. Emesis [em-uh-sis] means the act of vomiting. Hyper [hahy-per] means: overstimulated, overexcited. Gravida [grav-i-duh] means a pregnant woman and called gravida I (primigravida) during the first pregnancy, gravida II (secundigravida) during the second pregnancy and so on.

The majority of pregnant women experience some type of morning sickness (70 – 80%). Recent studies show that at least 60,000 cases of extreme morning sickness called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) are reported by those who are treated in a hospital but the numbers are expected to be much higher than this since many women are treated at home or by outpatient care with their health care provider.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is considered a diagnosis of exclusion. A diagnosis of exclusion (per exclusionem) is a diagnosis of a medical condition reached by a process of elimination of other possible reasons for the symptoms, which may be necessary if the condition cannot be established with complete confidence from history, examination or testing.

Distinguishing between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum-

Morning Sickness:

  • Nausea sometimes accompanied by vomiting
  • Nausea that subsides at 12 weeks or soon after
  • Vomiting that does not cause severe dehydration
  • Vomiting that allows you to keep some food down

Hyperemesis Gravidarum:

  • Nausea accompanied by severe vomiting
  • Nausea that does not subside
  • Vomiting that causes severe dehydration
  • Vomiting that does not allow you to keep any food down

Signs and symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum:

  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Food aversions
  • Weight loss of 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight
  • Decrease in urination
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Jaundice
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Secondary anxiety/depression

By the way, the gossip was that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) suffered from it during both pregnancies.

Knowing this, can you figure out what hematemesis (hē’mə-tə-mē’sĭs) means?

If you guessed – blood in the vomit or the vomiting of blood (emesis stands for act of vomiting and hemat – for blood), you are correct!

Compiled using information from the following sources:
Williams Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 49. HER Foundation,, Pregnancy Conditions, Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Rita Galin
Supervisor, Russian Interpreter at UMHS Interpreter Services
Rita was born in Estonia, but her native language is Russian. She has a medical degree from Tartu State University (Tartu, Estonia), one of the oldest universities in Europe. She completed an internship in Neurology and Neurosurgery, attended and completed Adolescent Pathophysiology courses in Continuing Medical Education Institute, and worked as a Neurologist at the Adolescent Outpatient Clinic in Tallinn, Estonia. Rita’s clinical interests are in Adolescent Neurologic Pathophysiology as well as Young Adult Psychology.

Rita has worked for the University of Michigan Health System since 1995 as a Medical Interpreter, and was one of the first two staff Medical Interpreters at UMHS. She has presented on Cultural Specifics and Differences between medical systems in the former Soviet Union and the US. She has assisted in the creation of a video training on clear communications with LEP patients through an Interpreter for medical students at UMHS.

Rita is one of the creators of and the only instructor of the UMHS Interpreter Services course Medical Terminology and Body Systems, a 40-hour training that is national accredited by CCHI. She is also a member of the Diversity at the End of Life Committee at UMHS.

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