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Hyperemesis Gravidarum - The Symptoms And Treatments For Severe Morning Sickness

Section: Morning sickness
Hyperemesis Gravidarum - The Symptoms And Treatments For Severe Morning Sickness

Morning sickness? Check. Lunchtime sickness? Check. Evening sickness? Check. You could be suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, a pregnancy illness that is manageable and can be treated

While sickness during your first trimester is par for the course, it shouldn’t be something that you have to put up with throughout the whole nine months.

So, if you’re feeling queasy more often than not, it’s time you consulted your GP as it’s not something you have to put up with – you should be able to enjoy your pregnancy, not be holed up in bed with a bucket. 

What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

It’s a bit of a mouthful, but hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is basically severe pregnancy sickness. It’s not very common, but, just like any sickness, when it does hit it isn’t nice.

‘Some pregnant women experience severe nausea and vomiting,’ says Dr Dib Datta, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. ‘This condition needs specialist treatment as it can become quite severe if not treated.’

And while HG is pretty awful for you, if treated it won’t harm your baby.

You’re more likely to develop HG if you’re having a multiple birth, if your mum or sister had the condition while they were pregnant or if you’re prone to migraines and travel sickness.

How does hyperemesis gravidarum occur?

It’s thought that this extreme nausea is caused by a rise in hormone levels but the absolute reason is still unknown.

‘While morning sickness usually clears up during weeks 12 to 14 of pregnancy, the symptoms of HG usually appear between four to six weeks of pregnancy,’ explains Dr Datta.

The symptoms of HG usually appear between four to six weeks of pregnancy

‘It may get really bad between nine to 13 weeks but often women find the sickness lessens between 14 to 20 weeks.’

Unfortunately, around 10 to 20 per cent of women with HG may experience the symptoms throughout their entire pregnancy, but by the time your baby is born the condition should have completely cleared up. If it hasn’t, consult your GP as it could indicate a separate problem, such as an ulcer. 

What are the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum?

Extreme sickness and frequent waves of nausea are the main symptoms of HG, but you may also be producing lots more saliva than usual or find it hard to swallow without being sick.

Obviously you wouldn’t expect to lose weight while being pregnant, so if you are this could be another indication that you have HG.

How is hyperemesis gravidarum treated?

There are three ways that HG is usually treated – through fluids, tube feeding and medication. The type of treatment that you will undergo will depend on how severely ill you are and it can be a matter or trial and error to see what works for you.

‘Intravenous fluids (IV) may be suggested,’ says Dr Datta. ‘These will restore hydration, electrolytes, vitamins and nutrients. Tube feeding may also be an option if you’re struggling to keep any food down.  A tube will be passed through the nose and down to the stomach to restore the nutrients you need to your body.’

There are three types of medication often suggested – metoclopramide, antihistamines and antireflux medications. But, it can be hard to swallow pills if you’re already feeling queasy, so other treatments may be suggested. The anti-sickness medication offered has a great track record and shouldn’t harm your baby.

You can also try some home remedies to help manage your waves of nausea. Stay hydrated by drinking water or sucking on ice cubes and keep note of what smells make your feel sick and avoid them – if necessary, just stick to eating cold foods. Some women also find ginger to be a great nausea fighter.

Don’t let your GP ignore your request for help if you think you are being sick more often than is ‘normal’ for a pregnant woman. If needs be, seek help from another medical expert.

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