Hyperemesis gravidarum, or excessive vomiting, is an uncommon and unpleasant condition that can occur during pregnancy. It’s rare enough that it has an incidence of only 3% of all reported pregnancies. It is characterized by severe nausea and vomiting that can cause dehydration and weight loss.
What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
The best way to describe hyperemesis gravidarum (“excessive vomiting”) is that it is an extreme version of morning sickness. Morning sickness is a term for nausea that the result of surging pregnancy hormones is a classic sign of pregnancy that typically starts at around 4 to 6 weeks of gestation. Most women report that their morning sickness tapers by the time they are 20 weeks along.
With hyperemesis gravidarum, the nausea and vomiting will start early in the first trimester, much like morning sickness. However, these symptoms usually reach a reported peak of 9 to 13 weeks and then can persist throughout the pregnancy, instead of tapering off in the second trimester.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum vs Morning Sickness
What sets this condition apart from morning sickness is that there is severe and constant vomiting throughout the day. Food and drink cannot be kept down long enough for the body to absorb. This deficit is what causes the severe dehydration and weight loss associated with hyperemesis gravidarum.
What causes Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Good question, but there is no certain answer to what the cause for hyperemesis gravidarum is. Medical experts suspect it’s related to the surge of hormone levels.
If a woman has this condition during her first pregnancy, she has an increased chance of experiencing it during any subsequent pregnancies. There is no known way to prevent hyperemesis gravidarum, however, starting prenatal vitamins prior to getting pregnant can help mitigate the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Complications during pregnancy
Because of the intense vomiting of hyperemesis gravidarum, there are potential complications to look for.
- Weight loss
- Kidney function can decline, producing less urine
- Dizziness and weakness caused by the mineral imbalance of electrolytes, sodium and potassium.
- Need for IV fluids due to dehydration induced by vomiting
Most of the complications from hyperemesis gravidarum will be a concern for the mother, rather than the child she carries. But a medical professional should closely supervise the pregnancy as it progresses to monitor the health of both. Sometimes hospitalization is required to get the vomiting under better control.
What’s the treatment for Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum will depend on the severity of nausea and vomiting and whether or not prescription medications are helping. Lifestyle changes can help reduce symptoms as well.
Some of the lifestyle changes a doctor may recommend are:
- Eat small amounts of food at more frequent intervals.
- Drink fluids in smaller amounts and more frequently throughout the day.
- Identify if certain temperatures or textures of food trigger the nausea and to avoid them.
- Get as much sleep as possible. Lack of sleep is a huge trigger for the nausea.
These vitamins and medications may offer some relief for hyperemesis gravidarum. Always consult with a medical professional before taking any over-the-counter products.
- Diclegis: This is a medication that can be prescribed by a doctor that can treat the nausea and vomiting from hyperemesis gravidarum.
- Vitamin B6: This vitamin is usually prescribed in combination with Unisom during pregnancy for nausea (Diclegis). Do not take more than the maximum dosage (25 mg, three times daily), as it can result in temporary nerve damage.
- Vitamin B1: up to 1.5 mg daily could ease the vomiting of hyperemesis gravidarum.
- Ginger: When taken in small doses (1 to 1.5 grams per day), ginger is supposed to help settle the stomach. Ginger can be taken in the form of tea, lollipops, or candies. You can find some products with ginger as a featured ingredient in most grocery stores.
- Antacids: These can help relieve the burning sensation and discomfort of heartburn.
- Peppermint: Much like Ginger, peppermint can also help settle the stomach
Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum temporary?
Hyperemesis gravidarum is usually a temporary condition and its symptoms will completely subside with the baby’s birth. Some women may experience symptoms for only a short time during pregnancy, while others may experience symptoms for a much longer duration.