Hyperemesis Gravidarum

If you are wondering what the long and complicated sounding term Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) means and how it has any association with pregnancy you are in the right place. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that causes extreme sickness and effects around 1-3% of pregnant women. In HG you will probably find yourself vomiting excessively throughout the day, becoming weak, not being able to tolerate food or fluids, therefore, losing weight rapidly.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum can develop even before you have a positive pregnancy test but usually begins around 4-6 weeks pregnant and increases its intensity at around 9-13 weeks. Hyperemesis can be very debilitating and can cause an expectant mother to stop work or perform daily activities thus resulting in complete bed rest. This condition often goes undiagnosed or misrepresented as just “bad morning sickness” and therefore crucial that you talk to your Midwife or GP if your sickness is constant and appears to be worsening. Remember that sickness has no time stamp it can occur at any time of the day, especially with HG you may find you are up all hours of the night vomiting.

How to Diagnose HG / Common Symptoms
Official diagnosis of HG needs to come from a professional such as your GP. This will be done usually through your medical history and the symptoms you are presenting. Signs such as dehydration diagnosed through blood and urine samples, a faster than normal pulse rate and low blood pressure are often signs of HG. The sooner your GP can make a diagnosis the sooner you will be able to fully understand the condition (which may or may not last the full nine months of your pregnancy) as well as your treatment options.

Here is a list of some of the symptoms you may experience whilst suffering from HG:

  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Food aversions
  • Fainting/dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sensitive gag reflex
  • Ketosis
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Increased sense of smell
  • Intolerance to noise/motion/light
  • Rapid heart rate

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, only certain treatments to help ease the condition such as anti-sickness medications, stress relief, rest and natural remedies such as eating ginger flavoured foods such as biscuits. Treatment really does depend on the severity of your symptoms and your individual circumstances, with some women finding relief through anti-sickness tablets whilst others become extremely poorly needing to be hospitalised for intravenous medication and rehydration.

The treatment options available to you will need to be discussed with your GP so you have a full understanding of the risks associated with taking certain medications whilst pregnant. Some women who can tolerate some food and fluid, find it helps to eat little and often, therefore, altering your diet a little can sometimes help improve symptoms but again this does not work for everyone.

Coping strategies are also an important part of treatment such as keeping a diary of your diet, times of vomiting and any symptoms you have each day can help you not only understand your condition but look for any patterns in particular times when you may feel slightly well. It is also good to keep a diary so your health professional can help identify any underline problems and make adjustments to treatment as necessary.

Rest is also crucial. With HG you probably feel like remaining in bed all day anyway! Don’t ignore this sign, your body is telling you to do this for a reason. Do try to have regular sips of water to keep hydrated. Another great strategy is to create a sick bag for when you go out and about. So many times women are caught when shopping in the supermarket or walking down the high street, not knowing where to go and only having seconds if that before they vomit. Having a sick bag with wipes, tissues, water and a sick bag can help ease embarrassment and stress.

Support Groups and Networks
A lot of women find that they feel quite low and isolated when suffering from HG. Constant comments such as “it’s just morning sickness” and “she’s always off work sick, she’s only pregnant” can make you feel very upset. Having someone to talk to who is going through or been through the same thing can help relieve any worries, stresses and put your mind at rest.

There are a few networks online that can give you some support. A favourite of ours at Dream Bear is www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk who have a network of women from around the UK who are all HG sufferers. They help by aiming to reduce isolation and fear of the illness through regular contact in numerous ways such as text, telephone, email and meet-ups with a designated support worker.  Their website offers a lot of further and in-depth information on HG so you can also educate yourself further on the condition you are dealing with.

It sounds awful, and it can be however there is help to be had and it isn't permanent. We're here every step of the way.

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