Pregnancy Articles

More Than Morning Sickness

What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

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About half of all pregnant women experience morning sickness. For the vast majority of women, morning sickness isn't a serious condition, and it doesn't pose risk to their babies. However, a severe and serious form of pregnancy sickness, known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum, can pose health risks to both mother and baby.

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is frequently described as consistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that prevents the woman from eating food and drinking fluids. This severe nausea and violent vomiting prevent the body from retaining and utilizing food and fluid. Some common concerns associated with untreated hyperemesis include:
  • rapid loss of weight (sometimes more than 10% of pre-pregnancy weight)
  • dehydration
  • critical nutrient deficiencies in early pregnancy
  • metabolic imbalances, including ketosis
  • inability to participate in previous levels of activity, including daily living
How Do I know if I have typical morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum?

BabyFit Member, DeCole, experienced this condition during her second pregnancy.  "I was losing weight at a rapid pace and not enjoying any part of life," DeCole recounts. "I was not able to keep down water, ice chips, or anything they recommend to ease morning sickness. My job was suffering, my family was suffering, and no one knew what to do to help me." DeCole informed her doctor of her "severe morning sickness" during a routine checkup.

Morning sickness affects most women in the early weeks of pregnancy. HG symptoms are no different. The following symptoms are common in early pregnancy and are generally associated with morning sickness:
  • Food aversions
  • Increased sense of smell
  • Sensitive gag reflex
  • Excessive salivation
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Vomiting of mucus in addition to foods/fluids
  • Constipation
Hyperemesis symptoms, however, generally begin between weeks 4 - 6 of pregnancy and lessen by the end of the first trimester. It is not uncommon for symptoms to last as long as 21 weeks before a woman experiences some improvement. A small number of women may even experience some symptoms throughout their entire pregnancies. The cause of hyperemesis is not fully understood and while there are various theories, most professionals believe it is a complex complication of pregnancy, caused by a variety of factors.

Contact your physician immediately for an evaluation if you experience several of the morning sickness symptoms (bulleted list above) in combination with several of these hyperemesis gravidarum symptoms:
  • Dry, furry tongue
  • Excessive thirst
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Pale, waxy, dry skin
  • Headache
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Secondary anxiety, depression
  • Intolerance to motion, noise, light
  • Vomiting blood
  • Body odor due to rapid weight loss & ketosis
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Rapid weight loss (2 or more pounds/week) due to excessive nausea and vomiting.
Morning sickness CAN progress to hyperemesis as your pregnancy progresses. So just because your physician diagnosed you with morning sickness at 8 weeks, it doesn't mean you won't develop something more serious at 10 weeks of pregnancy or later. If you are concerned, CALL your Doctor's office and speak with a nurse. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry and suffering.
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About The Author

Tanya Jolliffe
Tanya earned a bachelor's degree in dietetics and nutrition and has more than 15 years of nutrition counseling experience. She has worked with clients in such areas as prenatal nutrition, general family nutrition and therapeutic nutrition in end-stage organ disease.

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