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Causes of HG

There are numerous theories regarding the etiology of HG; however, none are, as of yet, conclusive. So many studies have too few participants to consider the results conclusive, or the findings are not consistent among the majority of test subjects. This means that determining the cause is very difficult and most likely not due to only one factor. The cause may vary between women, depending on her biological make-up (genetics), body chemistry, and her overall health. It may also change somewhat from pregnancy to pregnancy as a woman's health may be different, as well as the sex of the child, and the medical interventions may be more or less aggressive. There are numerous factors involved.


The research that is done has largely centered around hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. However, even these studies do not find common results among all of the women studied. Each woman varies greatly in her response to pregnancy and the resulting hormonal changes. Psychological causes are still assumed by many, though without merit.

It's Not Pyschologically Caused

As in most perplexing disorders, a psychological cause is named when a physiological one is not known. This is especially true of something like nausea, which can't be easily checked by a health professional like one's blood pressure. Because of this, it is easy for health professionals to dismiss your symptoms as being psychological, exaggerated, or imaginary, when in fact they are very real and may in fact be very severe.

Effectively communicating the severity of your HG can be difficult, especially if there is not obvious "proof" of how sick you are. Proof, such as severe weight loss or dehydration, often comes after you are very sick for some time. The longer you wait for treatment, the more difficult it is to manage your symptoms. Our downloadable progress chart (40 Kb PDF) can help track your symptoms for your health professional, and encourage you as you see improvements in your weight and ability to do more activities.

Psychological changes have been found to occur as a result of being so ill, not as a cause. They are largely related to physiological changes in a woman's body, lack of sufficient nutrition, social isolation, and general misery.

Depression occurs in at least 20% of normal pregnancies, so it is not surprising that women with complications such as HG have an increased risk. Studies show increased visits to the obstetrical clinic, use of sick leave, and hassles increase the rate of depression. Those with poor psychosocial situations (financial stress, housing problems, etc.), additional medical complications, or inadequate support also are prone to depression. Women with HG are at high-risk for depression both during and after pregnancy.

Treat the Symptoms

Newer studies are also looking at the immune system changes, genetic differences, abnormal functioning of the stomach and intestines, nutritional deficiencies, and sensitivity of the brain to motion (vestibular disorders). For now, the cause is not known and thus a cure is not easily found. Treating the symptoms a woman has is the best way to manage HG until the causes are identified.

Above all, remember you are not bringing this on yourself. You did not cause HG and cannot make it go away just by trying harder to eat, or to not be sick. HG is a real disease of pregnancy that is only cured by delivery of the baby. So, hang in there and focus on coping, not on why this is happening to you. It is likely that you will never know for sure.

To read more detailed information on potential causes of HG:

Offsite Research:

Prevalence of depressive symptoms in late pregnancy and postpartum.
Josefsson A, Berg G, Nordin C, Sydsjo G.

Cohort study of depressed mood during pregnancy and after childbirth.
Evans J, Heron J, Francomb H, Oke S, Golding J.

Psychosocial correlates of prepartum and postpartum depressed mood.
Da Costa D, Larouche J, Dritsa M, Brender W.

Updated on: Apr. 18, 2013

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