Pregnancy can be a wonderful time in a woman’s life. Unfortunately, though, the experience isn’t all magic and rainbows. Sometimes it can be quite difficult, especially if the expectant mother develops hyperemesis gravidarum. This temporary but incurable condition takes morning sickness to a new level of awful, preventing women from maintaining a normal existence during pregnancy, and even landing them in the hospital.
What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Unlike morning sickness, women with hyperemesis gravidarum experience near-constant vomiting. It can lead to severe weight loss and electrolyte disturbance, with more severe cases calling for a stay in the hospital.
How Many Women Are Affected?
Fortunately, hyperemesis gravidarum is a relatively rare condition affecting fewer than three percent of pregnant women. Recent years have seen hospitals reports of at least 60,000 cases of hyperemesis gravidarum, but doctors estimate that the real number is much higher.
When Does it Occur?
The symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum typically show up within the first trimester, between the fourth and sixth week of pregnancy. In most cases, the intensity peaks between the ninth and thirteenth week before dropping off in the 14th to 20th weeks. Some women have hyperemesis gravidarum throughout their entire pregnancy, however, and must deal with it on a daily basis. Up to 20 percent of women require care through to the very end of their pregnancy, and only experience relief after their child is born.
What are Some Other Symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Severe vomiting and nausea are the most common symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum, but they are not the only ones. Women may also experience aversions to certain foods (which food varies from woman to woman), weight loss of up to five percent of their pre-pregnancy weight, dehydration, headaches, confusion, fainting, jaundice, fatigue, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and loss of skin elasticity. Some women develop anxiety or depression as a result.
How is Hyperemesis Gravidarum Different from Morning Sickness?
Nearly eighty percent of all pregnant women experience morning sickness, so it is not surprising that many people mistakenly discount hyperemesis gravidarum. The degree of intensity is the most notable difference between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum. With normal morning sickness, nausea is occasionally followed by vomiting, but not always. This vomiting does not cause dehydration and allows the woman to keep down some foods. It also goes away after the 12th week of pregnancy. With hyperemesis gravidarum, nausea is almost always followed by severe vomiting and does not go away after 12 weeks. It causes dehydration and makes it difficult to keep down any food at all.
What Are Some Possible Complications?
Hyperemesis gravidarum is not technically life-threatening, but it can cause some severe problems for both mother and baby. A loss of nearly five percent of one’s body weight can put stress on the body. The kidneys may be affected, producing less urine than necessary. The near-constant vomiting depletes the body of electrolytes and minerals such as sodium and potassium, causing weakness, dizziness, and blood pressure changes. Weakness in muscles may also lead to the need for bed rest for at least part of the pregnancy.
Treatment Methods: Hospitalization
Around five percent of women with hyperemesis gravidarum must eventually check into a hospital for help with their condition. Once there, they may receive intravenous fluids (IV) to help restore lost electrolytes, nutrients, vitamins, and general hydration. Because they cannot keep food down, affected women may require feeding through a nasogastric tube, a method that transports nutrients through the nose and down into the stomach. Patients who need further care may need a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy to transport nutrients via a tube that passes through the abdomen into the stomach.
Treatment Methods: At Home
If the hyperemesis gravidarum is not so severe to require a hospital stay, some at-home measures can be taken to help manage the condition. Bed rest may be recommended by your doctor, but it is important to keep an eye on the muscle weakness and further weight loss that may be caused by remaining sedentary. Herbs like peppermint and ginger can settle the stomach as well. Acupressure may even be used, with the woman pressing her fingers to a pressure point on her wrist to reduce nausea. These methods are best used after consulting with a doctor, however.
Treatment Methods: Vitamins and Medications
Some vitamins may help reduce nausea in women with hyperemesis gravidarum, including pyridoxine and vitamin B6. Typical dosages are between 10 and 25 milligrams, three times a day, but overdosing can lead to nerve damage. Thiamine (vitamin B1) in small doses may also lessen the amount of nausea and vomiting one experiences. A doctor must approve any and all treatments for hyperemesis gravidarum, to ensure harm does not befall mother or baby.
Famous People with Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Hyperemesis gravidarum first entered popular vernacular when the media announced the condition afflicted Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, heir to the British throne. Middleton dealt with the condition throughout all three of her pregnancies. In addition to Amy Schumer’s recent, publicized experience, other celebrity women who the media claims have dealt with the condition include Kelly Clarkson, Kim Kardashian, and Tia Mowry. The public discussion of their symptoms and struggles gave many other women the strength to open up about their own experiences with hyperemesis gravidarum, and to seek help.