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Your Severe Morning Sickness During Pregnancy Could Actually be a Condition Called Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Updated on June 26, 2013

First off, every woman who has had the privilege of experiencing pregnancy knows that the term "morning sickness" is very misleading. It should be phased out and replaced with a more appropriate term such as "inconvenient sickness" or "constant projectile vomiting." Whatever you call it, the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy is usually inevitable, and affects the vast majority of expectant mothers at some point in her pregnancy.

There does come a point, though, where your morning sickness could actually be a sign of a severe condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum. This is when the nausea and vomiting are so bad, that they are debilitating, making it impossible for you to function normally in your everyday life. You may miss work, school, family functions, simply because you cannot get away from your new best friend, the toilet, long enough.

You may be more likely to develop HG if... you are obese, a first time mother, a young mother, in pregnancies involving multiples, and if you've had it in a previous pregnancy. HG is different from typical morning sickness because it usually starts way earlier (scientists believe this is due to high levels of the hormone HCG early in pregnancy) and does not slack off in the second trimester like it would in a normal pregnancy.

Aside from it being very inconvenient and a pain in the rear, it can also be dangerous. It can lead to weight loss of 5% or more during pregnancy (a time when whether you like it or not, you should be gaining, not losing, weight), malnutrition and dehydration because of your inability to keep down any fluids or food.

If you notice any of these signs, call your doctor. What you're experiencing may be more than typical run-of-the-mill morning sickness.

  • Extremely frequent vomiting and nausea that is severely interrupting your daily routine.
  • You are unable to keep down any food or liquid.
  • You feel as if you are becoming dehydrated. Signs of dehydration often include constipation, ketosis (basically, your urine will be dark and smelly), and not urinating as often as you normally would.
  • Hallucinations.
  • You seem to have lost your sense of taste.
  • Blood in the vomit.
  • Weight loss of 5% or more. (It is common for sufferers of extreme HG to experience a weight loss of 30%)

What can you expect your doctor to do to help treat HG? Most doctors will try to use more natural methods first, such as acupressure bands (you can get these at most drug stores, sometimes called Sea Bands or motion sickness bands.), ginger, acupuncture, and a lot of doctors seem to be recommending a combination of a vitamin B6 supplement and Unisom sleep tabs (please visit your doctor for this one, don't try to figure out the combination yourself).

However, if your symptoms are severe enough that it is causing severe weight loss and stress, you may be prescribed an antiemetic. These are medications that can help with eliminating nausea. Some of them you may have heard of, since they are often the same ones used to help people with motion sickness. A couple of common ones include Zofran and Phenegran.

Once you are to the point to where you are able to keep food down again, try to fend off nausea like you would if you were dealing with any morning sickness. Avoid spicy, high fat foods, and graze and snack throughout the day so that you don't get hungry and trigger nausea. It may seem a bit unorthodox, but I personally suggest if you're only able to find one food that you can keep down, eat it, even if it's not the healthiest thing in the world. If all you can hold down is a Krispy Kreme, go for it girl. It's better to have what is considered unhealthy food than no food at all.

Now to the really important question... What are the effects of a mother with HG on her unborn child? I researched and came up with conflicting answers, most saying that there was no mental difference in babies with moms who had HG, and the most severe consequence was that the baby may have a slightly lower than average birth weight. However, it was also noted that this was usually not the case if the mother was able to gain at least 15 pounds over the course of her pregnancy.


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    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 6 years ago from Houston, TX

      Great post! I had this with all of my pregnancies. I hated it when people told me my morning sickness was just in my head and to get over it. I couldn't stand up for more than 3.5 minutes before vomiting. when I had the twins, the room literally spun without the Zophran. I still felt ill with it, but but at least I could see straight. I hope people will see this and go a little easier on the gal who is just trying to cook another human being.