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Severe Morning Sickness – What is Hyperemisis Gravidarum?

Some nausea and vomiting during the earlier stages of pregnancy is common. The discomfort is caused by levels of pregnancy hormones, specifically hCG, (human chorionic gonadotropin, the hormone responsible for helping to build your baby’s placenta) and estrogen in a woman’s body. Both of these increase rapidly during pregnacy. Hyperemisis Gravidarum is known as severe morning sickness. It is nausea and vomiting that goes beyond what is considered a normal level.

It might be Hyperemisis Gravidarum if:

  • You are vomiting multiple times per day
  • Food or liquid comes back up
  • You feel lightheaded
  • You show signs of dehydration (not urinating, dark yellow urine)
  • You’re losing weight
  • You see blood in the vomit
  • You have low blood pressure or a high pulse rate

Hyperemisis Gravidarum occurs in less than one in 200 pregnancies. For those women, severe and continuous nausea and vomiting that becomes debilitating because it interferes with a woman’s ability to eat, drink, sleep, and work. Like most medical conditions, its Latin name describes what it is: The term comes from the Greek hyper-, meaning excessive, and emesis, meaning vomiting. Gravidarum means “pregnant woman.” The grav- part of the word means “heavy,” as in the English word “gravity.”

Severe cases can lead to extreme weight loss, malnutrition in both the mom and baby, and dehydration. Since the baby is affected by the mother’s inability to eat, hospitalization may be needed.

When does Hyperemisis Gravidarum start?

Severe morning sickness usually starts in the first trimester at around week 4 or 5 of pregnancy. Typical morning sickness usually starts around week 6. Hyperemisis Gravidarum can sometimes clear up on its own between weeks 12 and 20. In some cases, though, it can continue throughout a pregnancy.

Severe morning sickness seems to be most common in first-time mothers, very young mothers, and mothers carrying multiple babies. If a woman has had Hyperemisis Gravidarum with a previous pregnancy, she is more likely to have it with subsequent pregnancies. Also, women whose mothers had severe morning sickness are also more likely to have it themselves.

How can you avoid severe morning sickness?

Although it’s a mystery why some women get this and others don’t, there are some things that research tells us contributes to severe morning sickness. Severe emotional stress can be a factor. If you are experiencing an extremely stressful life situation, let your doctor know. Your doctor will be able to make suggestions on how to deal with or possibly improve the situation to remove the stress.

Hormonal imbalances or diseases that cause hormonal imbalance, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, can increase your risk of severe morning sickness. Vitamin deficiencies or a bacterial stomach infection can also play a role. Looking at a woman’s overall physical and mental health is an important part of diagnosing and treating Hyperemisis Gravidarum.

How can you treat Hyperemisis Gravidarum?

Try traditional treatments for nausea first. This may include eating ginger or drinking ginger tea. Any foods or drinks that are disagreeable to you (make you feel sick) should be avoided. Although with Hyperemisis Gravidarum it can seem like everything makes you feel sick! Drink fluids regularly to avoid becoming dehydrated. There are some prescription medications for anti-nausea that you and your doctor can talk about.