What is hyperemesis gravidarum?
Many women experience morning sickness (nausea) during pregnancy. This condition is generally harmless. While morning sickness can be quite uncomfortable, it typically goes away within 12 weeks.
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is an extreme form of morning sickness that causes severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Morning sickness and HG are very different conditions. They have different complications and side effects for each pregnant woman. It’s important to distinguish between these two conditions to properly treat symptoms.
Morning sickness typically includes nausea that’s sometimes accompanied by vomiting. These two symptoms usually disappear after 12 to 14 weeks. The vomiting doesn’t cause severe dehydration.
Morning sickness typically begins in the first month of pregnancy. It usually goes away by the third or fourth month. Pregnant women with morning sickness can get fatigue and a slight loss of appetite. They may have difficulty performing their usual daily activities.
HG typically includes nausea that doesn’t go away and severe vomiting that leads to severe dehydration. This doesn’t allow you to keep any food or fluids down.
The symptoms of HG begin within the first six weeks of pregnancy. Nausea often doesn’t go away. HG can be extremely debilitating and cause fatigue that lasts for weeks or months.
According to the HER Foundation, women with HG may experience a complete loss of appetite. They may not be able to work or perform their normal daily activities.
HG can lead to dehydration and poor weight gain during pregnancy. There’s no known way to prevent morning sickness or HG, but there are ways to manage the symptoms.
HG usually starts during the first trimester of pregnancy. Less than half of women with HG experience symptoms their entire pregnancy, notes the HER Foundation.
Some of the most common symptoms of HG are:
- feeling nearly constant nausea
- loss of appetite
- vomiting more than three or four times per day
- becoming dehydrated
- feeling light-headed or dizzy
- losing more than 10 pounds or 5 percent of your body weight due to nausea or vomiting
Almost all women experience some degree of morning sickness during their pregnancy. Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Despite the name, morning sickness isn’t confined to the morning. It can occur at any time.
Morning sickness and HG seem to have a connection to human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This is a hormone created during pregnancy by the placenta. Your body produces a large amount of this hormone at a rapid rate early in pregnancy. These levels can continue to rise throughout your pregnancy.
Some factors that could increase your risk of getting HG are:
- having a history of HG in your family
- being pregnant with more than one baby
- being overweight
- being a first-time mother
Trophoblastic disease can also cause HG. Trophoblastic disease occurs when there’s an abnormal growth of cells inside the uterus.
Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and your symptoms. A standard physical exam is enough to diagnose most cases. Your doctor will look for common signs of HG, such as abnormally low blood pressure or a fast pulse.
Blood and urine samples may also be necessary to check for signs of dehydration. Your doctor might also order additional tests to rule out gastrointestinal problems as a cause of your nausea or vomiting.
An ultrasound might be necessary to find out if you’re pregnant with twins or if there’s are any problems. This test uses sound waves to create an image of the inside of your body.
Treatment for HG depends on the severity of your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend natural nausea prevention methods, such as vitamin B-6 or ginger.
Try eating smaller, more frequent meals and dry foods, such as crackers. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
Severe cases of HG may require hospitalization. Pregnant women who are unable to keep fluids or food down due to constant nausea or vomiting will need to get them intravenously, or through an IV.
Medication is necessary when vomiting is a threat to the woman or child. The most commonly used anti-nausea drugs are promethazine and meclizine. You can receive either through an IV or as a suppository.
Taking medication while pregnant can cause potential health problems for the baby, but in severe cases of HG, maternal dehydration is a more concerning problem. Talk to your doctor about the risks associated with any method of treatment.
The good news is that symptoms of HG will disappear after giving birth. However, postpartum recovery may be longer for women with HG.
Talk with your doctor and pursue education and support groups to help you and your family deal with HG. Be sure to communicate your feelings to your doctor and personal support system.