What in the World is Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Before even becoming pregnant, most women already know the symptoms related to the 9-month stretch: fatigue, swelling feet and ankles, hormonal mood swings, and the most notable, morning sickness. But even when prepared for morning sickness, it can hit you like a freight train, making it hard to eat, smell foods you used to love and sometimes even get out of bed in the morning. And for about 2 percent of women, that morning sickness may be even more severe and fail to subside around that trusty 12-week mark.

For that 2 percent, they are likely suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). A condition that sounds like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, hyperemesis gravidarum is actually a completely debilitating side effect or symptom of pregnancy. It’s marked by rapid weight loss, lack of nutrition and severe dehydration, all caused by severe bouts of nausea and vomiting. Worried you’re being affected? Read on, we’ve got the scoop on hyperemesis gravidarum.

The Difference Between Morning Sickness and HG

While all hyperemesis gravidarum is a type of morning sickness, not all morning sickness is automatically indicative of hyperemesis gravidarum. If you have concerns, you should always reach out to your medical provider, but here are a few ways to tell which one you might be experiencing.

Vomiting. Morning sickness is nausea that can sometimes be accompanied by vomiting, while HG is nausea that’s usually accompanied by severe vomiting.

Keeping food down. With morning sickness, you should be able to occasionally keep food down, while HG makes it much more difficult to maintain any level of nutritional intake.

12-week mark. Morning sickness usually ends on or around the 12-week mark, with the arrival of your second trimester. HG, on the other hand, can stay much longer into your pregnancy.

Dehydration. Nausea and vomiting caused by morning sickness should result in little to no dehydration, while HG can cause severe levels of dehydration.

Paying close attention to your body and symptoms will help you diagnose whether you’re experiencing something more severe than morning sickness or not.

What Causes Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

While there is no certain cause and way to know ahead of time if it will affect you, it is assumed that it is due to the drastic rise in hormone levels from pregnancy.  

It typically rears its ugly head somewhere between week 4 and 6 of pregnancy, and the majority of women will experience relief in the 14-20 week range. However, a significant amount of women (20%), may continue to experience HG through the end of their pregnancy.

How to Survive Hyperemesis Gravidarum

There is no “cure” for HG, and some cases may be so severe that they require hospitalization. In such a case, there are a few ways your doctors can care for you.

Hydrating with an IV. If you’re unable to keep food down, you’ll be in dire need of hydration. Hospitals can intravenously offer fluids with an IV, making the consumption easier.

Feeding through a tube. They may pass a tube through your nose and into your stomach, or surgically through your abdomen into your stomach to help you receive the nutrients you need to keep you and your baby healthy.

Prescription medications. Doctors can offer medications like antireflux, antihistamines and metoclopramide to help reduce the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum and help you reach a reasonable level of stability.

While some expecting mothers may end up hospitalized, it’s not the case for all. If you’re battling HG at home, here are a few things to try and help survive the experience:

Medications. Talk to your OBGYN about what you’re experiencing–chances are they can provide similar or the same medications as a hospitalization will offer.

Bed rest. Taking it easy and getting a lot of rest can offer some relief and subside symptoms for a while. It likely won’t be a permanent fix, but can help if you’re struggling to even make it into the office each day.

Keep trash cans everywhere. Making sure you have a place to throw up in any room in your house or office can help make the experience a little smoother. Avoid worrying you won’t make it to the bathroom in time.

Go easy on yourself. We can’t stress this one enough. It’s okay if you’re unable to keep up with your typical activities and responsibilities. Pregnancy is never easy, but suffering from HG adds an entirely different level to things.

No matter what, just remember that the end is in sight, and your little one will be so worth it. Making sure you listen to your body, staying honest with your medical provider and going easy on yourself will all make this process easier. Hang in there, mama, you’ve got this!