Many pregnant women experience at least some symptoms of nausea and/or vomiting during their pregnancy. This is referred to as “morning sickness” although it can occur at any time of the day. There is no exact cause for morning sickness but many doctors believe morning sickness may be triggered by rapid increases in hormones during pregnancy. While morning sickness is unpleasant, it’s usually mild and resolves itself by the second trimester. For other women, morning sickness becomes so continuous and severe that if medical attention is not sought, the health of the woman and her unborn child could be compromised.
Severe and unrelenting nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Much like morning sickness, it can occur at any point during the day. As morning sickness generally resolves during the first trimester, hyperemesis usually continues longer into the pregnancy. As with morning sickness, the cause of hyperemesis is unknown. Hyperemesis becomes debilitating. Many women are unable to keep food or beverages down. If left untreated, hyperemesis quickly leads to dehydration and malnutrition.
Hyperemesis also affects a woman’s personal life. Frequent vomiting can keep a woman from doing ordinary tasks such as caring for herself, her family or working. This places an added stress on loved ones.
Women who experience hyperemesis endure much more than just nausea and vomiting. Constant sickness not only takes a toll on a woman’s body, it can also take a severe toll on a woman’s spirit. Many women feel a variety of emotions when faced with hyperemesis, all of which are normal. Hyperemesis can cause women to experience some depression.
Treatment for hyperemesis depends on the severity. Women are encouraged to eat and drink small frequent meals. When nausea and vomiting become severe, less emphasis is placed on what is being consumed. In other words, eat whatever sounds appetizing. When you haven’t been able to keep anything down, something is better than nothing. There are certain medications available that can be used to help prevent nausea and vomiting. These medications are only available by prescription and should only be taken with direction from a doctor.
For women who find no relief from medication, another course of treatment is IV fluids and electrolytes. This could mean being admitted to the hospital for a few days or home IV therapy.
Having a good support system is important for women who are experiencing hyperemesis. Having a doctor who also takes hyperemesis seriously is just as important. The good news is that hyperemesis does not last forever. Most cases of hyperemesis will resolve by 20 weeks gestation. It’s important for the woman to not be afraid to ask for help. All the sickness and heartache will be well worth it in the end when you finally get to meet your new baby.