Pregnancy Complications

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

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If you are one of the lucky ladies, then you may not have to endure morning sickness during pregnancy. Nausea and vomiting are often unwelcome side effects of expecting, but for some the constant and relentless sickness can escalate into a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum. The symptoms include nausea and excessive vomiting where women struggle to keep anything down, even water. It is generally much worse than suffering from usual morning sickness.

What is hyperemesis gravidarum and when does it occur?

As with morning sickness, the onset of hyperemesis gravidarum can occur quite early on in the pregnancy and typically starts between four and seven weeks. For the majority of pregnant women, the sickness will begin to subside around 12 to 16 weeks into the pregnancy. Obviously in some cases, the occurrence of hyperemesis gravidarum may be shorter or longer but in extreme cases, hyperemesis gravidarum lasts throughout the whole pregnancy. It can be difficult to know if nausea and sickness during pregnancy is down to just morning sickness or a more severe form. The key signs that may indicate you are suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum are significant weight loss through vomiting and exhibiting signs of dehydration. In severe cases of hyperemesis gravidarum, anti sickness drugs that are certified as safe to be used in pregnancy can be prescribed. Rest assured that the baby growing inside will not be harmed by hyperemesis gravidarum and will continue to get all the nutrients they need from you, even when you are feeling totally wiped out.

What causes hyperemesis gravidarum?

No one knows exactly what causes morning sickness or the sickness that develops into hyperemesis gravidarum but the flurry of hormones early on in pregnancy certainly play their part. You are more likely to suffer if there is a family or past history of pregnancy sickness or if you are carrying multiple babies.

What can I do to ease the symptoms?

When you are suffering from nausea and vomiting, eating little and often can help. Have some of whatever you fancy and avoid things that make you feel nauseous. Food and drink containing ginger can help ease symptoms, as can travel sickness bands which are placed on your wrists pressing on pressure points. Do not forget that baby will be happy enough using up all your reserves and will suffer no ill effects. For severe forms of hyperemesis gravidarum, there are treatments your doctor can prescribe. It is also worth remembering to keep your fluid intake up as much as possible to avoid dehydration. Aim to drink clear fluids little and often or try sucking ice cubes. Look out for signs of dehydration such as not passing urine often, passing only small amounts and passing dark coloured urine. If you suspect you may be becoming dehydrated, you should seek medical assistance. Treatment of dehydration usually involves being admitted to hospital to receive intravenous fluid via a drip. Try not to worry about not being able to eat much as fluids are more important than food. There is plenty of time to make up for the nutritional element later when you are able to.

I'm worried about the effect hyperemesis gravidarum is having on my unborn baby, what else can I do?

Dealing with excessive tiredness, nausea and sickness can be very hard going. You may feel weak from vomiting as well as suffering exhaustion on top of normal pregnancy gripes and even living day to day can be a terrible struggle. Among all of this, you may be worried about the impact your sickness is having on the baby, but there really is no need to be concerned. There is not known to be any side effects on babies. They are likely to be oblivious to your pain and suffering and be happily growing inside. It is you who gets the rough end of the stick. You may, however, also suffer psychological effects from hyperemesis gravidarum. As well as feeling down and miserable, you may not be enjoying your pregnancy or deriving any pleasure from it, in particular wishing it away and deciding not to have any more children in case the same condition happens again. Looking after any other children too can be draining, while still trying to cope with normal routines, such as school runs, together with working, cooking, cleaning and looking after the family home can all get too much. While you are suffering, try and get as much help as you can from your partner, family and friends. Let them take some of the burden off you while you get through the worst of it. If you are offered help, do not be afraid to take it.

If severe sickness during pregnancy is accompanied by any other symptoms such as pain, fever, headaches, visual disturbances or bleeding then you should contact a healthcare professional to get checked out for other conditions. Common pregnancy illnesses such as urinary tract infections or gestational diabetes require immediate attention and treatment.

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