Suffering from morning sickness during pregnancy is very common, but we need to watch out if this affliction starts to feel unbearable: it might be a case of hyperemesis gravidarum.
And what is hyperemesis gravidarum exactly? Well, it is a form of severe morning sickness: the future mummy who suffers from it will throw up several times a day, and will have trouble keeping any food down. This isn’t normal nor common any more, and it can be dangerous for the future mummy and for the baby.
During pregnancy, it’s important to eat healthily and to eat enough, and drinking enough water is essential as well. Hyperemesis gravidarum could have consequences in these matters: the affected pregnant woman could not be gaining enough weight, or could be even suffering weight loss. Besides, there is a severe risk of dehydration as a result of that continuous nausea and vomiting.
What causes hyperemesis gravidarum?
Doctors haven’t been able to find the exact cause, but, like with morning sickness, there are a few hypothesis about it, such as the always guilty pregnancy hormones and all the hormonal changes your body is suffering. But there are some risk factors that could give you some warning about you being more likely to suffer from it, like a history or family history of hyperemesis gravidarum (that is, if you’ve had it in a previous pregnancy or members of your closest family have had it), or a history of feeling travel sickness or nausea as a side effect of hormonal contraceptives. Suffering from migraine is another risk factor, as well as being overweight.
Symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum: How will I recognise it?
Right now, you might be thinking about the many cases of bad morning sickness you’ve come across: sisters, friends, colleagues or even yourself! There are many future mummies who experience very bad morning sickness, you know many of them, but you have never heard about hyperemesis gravidarum. And why is that?
Well, hyperemesis gravidarum isn’t that common: it only affects 1% of future mums. However, since this condition can be dangerous and isn’t all that rare, it’s worth learning to recognise the hyperemesis symptoms.
First of all, let’s talk a bit about the similarities: In terms on timing, hyperemesis gravidarum behaves like normal morning sickness. It usually appears between week 4 and week 7 of pregnancy, and it starts phasing out around week 15, right at the beginning of the second trimester. However, in some cases it can last until week 20, and, again like with morning sickness, some unfortunate future mums will have to deal with it throughout all their pregnancies.
But let’s focus now on the hyperemesis gravidarum symptoms. You will be able to distinguish it from regular morning sickness if:
- You can’t stop throwing up and you feel nausea for a long time: If you’re feeling sick a big part of the day and throw up several times, you’re probably among the 1% of affected women.
- Your vomiting is severe and you have lots of trouble keeping food and drinks inside.
- You’re not gaining weight despite being pregnant, or have lost part of the weight you had previously gained.
- You feel dehydrated (you will know if you’re not urinating enough).
- You can’t keep up with your daily activities: Of course, feeling nausea during a bit part of the day will pose difficulties at work or whichever your daily routine is.
Feeling these symptoms could also be a sign of something else, especially if they start later than in week 7 or 8. If you feel them around week 12 for the first time, or if the timing is right but you also have a fever or are in pain, it could be the stomach flu or even a UTI in pregnancy. Make sure to explain everything you are feeling to your doctor so he can diagnose what’s happening to you.
Hyperemesis gravidarum treatment: How to feel better
Now that you’ve read about the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum, you know that home remedies won’t be of help this time. So how can we try to feel better if we’re suffering from this problem of pregnancy? Well, fortunately, there is a hyperemesis treatment that your doctor will prescribe. In fact, there are several forms of treatment that will be used depending on how serious your condition is. Your doctor could prescribe:
- Vitamin B1: Also called thiamine, it may help keep the food down:
- Medication: There are drugs that help stop vomiting, and some are allowed during pregnancy. They may be oral or come in suppository, shots or even an IV.
Unfortunately, around 5% of future mummies who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum will need to be hospitalised. If that’s your case, try not to panic: it’s for your own good and your baby’s, since in the hospital you will be able to get a more thorough treatment, such as IV fluids, tube feeding (the doctor will place a tube that goes into your stomach through your nose) or IV feeding. We know it sounds scary, but this way, the most severe cases of hyperemesis gravidarum will be guaranteed to get the necessary nutrition as well.
Home remedies for morning sickness tend not to do much, but they could help, as well as some natural remedies. Try eating small portions of food and drinking water often, and don’t eat foods that are too hot, since cold foods are easier to digest.
What are the consequences and complications of hyperemesis gravidarum?
First of all, don’t panic, and keep in mind that if you’re treated, there should be no consequences. With the correct treatment, your baby will get all the nourishment he needs – even if you feel so awful that it seems hard to believe!
You should pay some attention to yourself instead, since hyperemesis gravidarum may have a significant psychological effect on you. You could feel extremely tired and stressed, which could easily lead to depression in pregnancy. Such a severe form of morning sickness will clearly mess with whatever expectations you had of your own pregnancy, so make sure to talk to your partner, friends, family or even a specialist if you feel that you need professional help.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help to do your daily activities. Hyperemesis gravidarum really feels awful, and you may need a hand for doing simple things. Ask for help!
And what about the consequences? Well, we’ve already talk about weight loss and dehydration, but so much vomiting can also have other unwanted effects. Dehydration could result in kidney problems, and your mineral balance could also be off, since you won’t be getting all the nutrients and vitamins you need. This can result in dizziness and changes in your blood pressure, as well as, of course, exhaustion and weakness.
However, all of this can and will be managed when you get proper treatment. This is why it’s so important to tell your doctor that you’re feeling this way. Some future mums think that hyperemesis gravidarum is just bad morning sickness, and they don’t tell their doctors. But it can be treated: you will get the nourishment you need for your baby to grow beautiful and healthy!