Morning sickness is a dreaded part of pregnancy – nausea and discomfort through the first trimester, triggered by smells or sights or nothing at all. It’s not pleasant but as long as you’re getting enough food and water, it’s also not dangerous. That kind of mild morning sickness is very common – about half of pregnant women experience vomiting and about 80% suffer from nausea. But some women suffer from extremely severe morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum, and that can be dangerous for mother and child.
What Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Essentially, it’s really, really bad morning sickness. Morning sickness typically comes with nausea and maybe occasional vomiting, but HG means lots of severe vomiting. If you’re dehydrated or struggling to keep food or liquids down, that’s a sign that you’re approaching HG territory. Losing more than about 5% of your pre-pregnancy weight is another sign of HG.
Other symptoms may include:
- extreme fatigue
- rapid heart rate
As with morning sickness, the exact causes of HG are unknown. It’s thought to be linked to hormonal changes, but we just don’t know for sure. Fortunately, it’s fairly rare – only about 1% of pregnancies involve hyperemesis gravidarum. And for most women suffering from HG, the symptoms start to get better during the second trimester and may disappear completely by about halfway through the pregnancy. However, up to 1 in 5 women won’t get relief until the end of pregnancy.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum Treatment
If you’re finding that you can’t keep food or liquids down or that you’re dehydrated or losing a lot of weight, you should talk to your doctor. Keep a record of how often you’re experiencing vomiting and other symptoms, as well as your weight. You should definitely talk to your doctor if your symptoms are interfering with your daily life or if they last beyond the first trimester. Relatively mild cases may be treatable with rest and antacids, but you should never take any medication (antacids included) without consulting your doctor first.
If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, you may need IV fluids and nutrients to support you and the baby until the symptoms subside. You may even need a feeding tube for a while to make sure you’re getting the fuel your body needs.
Why is HG so dangerous? For one, it can deprive you and the baby of essential nutrients that you need to survive and that the baby needs to grow. If you’re not getting enough food and water, the baby isn’t getting enough food and water.
Another serious risk is dehydration. Your body creates a lot of extra blood during pregnancy to support your growing little one, and that means you need to stay really well-hydrated. But if you can’t keep liquids down, it’s all too easy to get dehydrated. And the more dehydrated you are, the more likely you are to suffer a DVT – a serious blood clot. The risk of a DVT is already higher during pregnancy than at other times and serious dehydration increases that risk even more.
What Should I Do If I Have HG?
If you believe you may be suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, you should go see your doctor right away. Some symptoms of HG may have other causes (including infections), so your doctor will need to consider all of those potential issues. Do not take any medications before consulting with your doctor – some anti-nausea medications have been linked to birth defects. In the meantime, try not to overexert yourself. You may also get some nausea relief from ginger or peppermint tea or aromatherapy.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is miserable (and can be a little scary) but it’s totally treatable. Just make sure you’re listening to your body and keeping an eye out for signs that your morning sickness may actually be something more.