With Princess of Cambridge, a pregnant Princess Kate Middleton being hospitalized for a rare kind of Morning Sickness, this incident has shed light on a rare disease which is a woe of many pregnant women, called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. If a disease is usually rare, it becomes more scarier, as the consequences of such diseases are not known and cannot be easily comprehended by us. Thus, it was tad scary to know that the symptoms of this rare form of disease includes uncontrollable vomiting and nausea which in turn may lead to losing water content in the body leading to dehydration and weight loss. It should be noted that renowned author Charlotte Bronte, sister of author Emily Bronte, died of this disease as it was a totally unknown illness at that time.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is called a rare illness because it affects only 1 to 2% of pregnant women, whereas morning sickness affects more than 90% of pregnant women. Thanks to the developing field of medicine, this illness is treatable by restoring the water content in the body (rehydration) and providing nutrition via IV. Different women have been treated differently for this illness. Few are said to find relief in acupuncture, others are given a medicine called Zofran, while some were even said to be suggested by their doctors to undergo an abortion if they found this illness “unbearable”.
Now, what actually is this illness, which scares the living lights out of pregnant women, and why is the treatment for this illness rather so complex? Let me give the list of symptoms and possible causes of this illness, which might prove to be beneficial for women who are both suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum as well as common morning sickness.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Definition
It may be defined as an illness that causes uncontrollable nausea and vomiting in pregnant women leading to dehydration, malnutrition and severe weight loss. It should not be confused with morning sickness which affects most of the pregnant women and is quite common during early trimester of pregnancy. This rare illness is the reason that more than 60,000 pregnant women are admitted in hospital every year.
Causes of Hyperemesis Gravidarum:
- A concrete cause has not yet been ascertained, but the doctors say that morning sickness as well as hyperemesis gravidarum in pregnant women can be triggered by high level of hormone known as Human Chorionic Gonadotropin or HCG. So it can be said that HCG is the main culprit which causes hyperemesis gravidarum. During the first trimester of pregnancy, HCG is secreted at high levels and thus trigger the portion of the brain responsible for causing nausea and vomiting.
- If a history of HG is already prevalent in family, then it may be passed on to the next generation or so as well.
- Increased estrogen level is also responsible for triggering the part of brain that is responsible for causing or controlling nausea and vomiting.
- It is a common knowledge that during pregnancy, some gastrointestinal changes occur in woman’s body. The digestive organs are shifted upwards to accommodate the growing fetus. As the digestive organs are shifted, it may cause an acid reflux which in turn results in nausea and vomiting.
- There can be psychological factors included as well which could cause this illness. If a person is under stress and extreme anxiety, it may trigger hyperemesis gravidarum.
- If the pregnant woman is on a high fat diet, they may be at a risk of falling prey of hyperemesis gravidarum.
- Women who are carrying more than one baby (twins) are at a much greater risk of developing hyperemesis gravidarum.
Hyperemesis gravidarum: Symptoms
As mentioned before, the symptoms if severe can cause crippling pain to a pregnant woman:
- Uncontrollable nausea
- Continuous or excessive vomit. If a pregnant woman vomits more than 4 to 5 times in a day and is not able to keep down any fluid or food in her body, then the condition can be categorized as extreme.
- Excessive dehydration due to loss of excessive water in the body.
- Loss of weight (around 6 pounds or more) in 1-2 week.
- Swooning sensation.
- Less or infrequent urination due to lack of water in the body.
- Pallor of the skin becomes pale.
- Severe headache
- All the above symptoms leading to jaundice.
Just bear in mind, morning sickness should not be confused with Hyperemesis Gravidarum because both are poles apart.
Difference between morning sickness & Hyperemesis gravidarum:
- In Morning sickness vomiting is not accompanied by nausea all the time.
- Morning sickness usually subsides in 12 to 13 weeks.
- Vomiting does occur, but it lets food stay in the stomach.
- Vomiting due to morning sickness does not cause dehydration
- It does not cause extreme weight loss.
- This sickness subsides after the first trimester.
- In this illness, vomiting is always accompanied by severe nausea.
- Unlike morning sickness, nausea does not usually subside.
- Severe dehydration occurs as a result of excessive vomiting.
- Due to uncontrollable vomiting, food does not stay down.
- Excessive weight loss occurs, can be in the range of 5 to 18 pounds.
- You start feeling better only when you reach the middle of your pregnancy.
Hyperemesis gravidarum: Diagnosis
If you are having excessive vomiting and feel nauseated most of the time, do not confuse it with a common morning sickness and contact your doctor ASAP! If you undergo proper treatment, there will be no complications for both you and the baby. If the doctor says that you are suffering from Mild Hyperemesis gravidarum, then simply a change of diet and having lots of protein such as cheese, milk and nuts, would suffice in bringing your health back to normal. You should also avoid fatty foods and indulge more in water consumption.
If you are suffering from Severe case of Hyperemesis gravidarum, your doctor would prescribe you medication such as antacids, Vitamin B6, Antihistamines and phenothiazine. If it becomes out of control, women should be immediately hospitalized and put on IV for the rehydration and re-nutrition process.
After reading this article, you might find pregnancy a bit scary and terrifying but let me assure you by mentioning that doctors say that hyperemesis gravidarum is treatable and a woman suffering from this illness can enjoy her pregnancy when treated early. With support from your spouse and family, you will be able to make it through. Happy Motherhood!
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