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"Burden of the Disease"

Anthony R. Scialli, MD
Director, The Reproductive Toxicology Center, Washington, D.C.
Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy: What's New?External Link
Satellite Session: The Reproductive Toxicology Center (September 3, 2000)

Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP) can range in severity from a few episodes of nausea to severe vomiting causing hospitalization and significant maternal weight loss. Nausea is a sensation that clinicians and researchers have found difficult to define and quantify.

50 to 80% of pregnant women will suffer from NVP, beginning by the 4th week and often ending by the 12th week of post conception, with peak symptoms occurring in the 9th week.

1 to 3% of these women will suffer from a more severe form of NVP, called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). HG is a condition described as intractable vomiting associated with a weight loss of more than 5% of pre-pregnancy weight, dehydration, electrolytes imbalances which can lead to hospitalization.

The financial burden of severe NVP on the American health care system has been estimated to be around $130 million a year. This estimate does not include the fee incurred for supplemental physician visits. This figure is based on an annual average of 39,000 hospital discharges at a mean cost of $3,300 per stay.

However, the most profound effect of NVP is on maternal quality of life. NVP can have an impact on several levels: physical functioning (interference with work, household activities), psychological functioning (anxiety, depression), and social functioning (disruption of social activities).

According to Motherisk, NVP has adverse effects on relationship with the spouse in 49% of women and 55% of pregnant women feel depressed. As for the partners, 55% have mentioned that NVP has affected their day-to-day life. Furthermore, 47% of working women felt job efficiency to be reduced, 78% of women lost paid employment time (62 hours on average), and 68% of women went on sick leave.

Although NVP is often considered a normal part of the pregnancy, it is important for everyone, including the medical community, to realize that, aside from the financial burden, NVP also affects the physical, social, and psychological state of the pregnant women and her family.

Updated on: Apr. 18, 2013

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