With the recent news from Kensington Palace that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child, also came the confirmation that Princess Kate is once again battling hyperemesis gravidarum, as she did in her two previous pregnancies. What is this condition and how common is it?
Hyperemesis gravidarum, which is marked by extreme nausea and vomiting, can lead to dehydration and weight loss. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), this severe form of “morning sickness” occurs in up to 3% of all pregnancies. It is typically found in women who are sensitive to the higher hormone levels that come with pregnancy.
Written by Meredith Murphy, D.O. on behalf of Tennova Healthcare.
Morning sickness (which may occur at any time of the day or night) is very common in early pregnancy. It’s unpleasant, but it usually doesn’t put your baby at any increased risk. However, hyperemesis gravidarum needs specialist treatment—sometimes hospitalization.
Here’s what every pregnant mom needs to know about hyperemesis gravidarum along with advice for dealing with mild to severe nausea during pregnancy.
When does morning sickness start? And how long will it last?
Morning sickness usually starts before nine weeks of pregnancy. For most women, it goes away by the second trimester (14 weeks of pregnancy). For some women, however, it lasts throughout the entire pregnancy.
What’s the difference between mild and severe morning sickness?
Some women feel queasy for a short time and may vomit once or twice. In more severe cases, nausea lasts several hours each day and vomiting occurs more frequently. Deciding to seek medical treatment depends on how much the nausea and vomiting affect your life and cause you concern.
How can I tell if it’s hyperemesis gravidarum?
This severe form of morning sickness is typically diagnosed when a women has lost 5% of her pre-pregnancy weight and has other problems related to dehydration. Women with hyperemesis gravidarum need treatment to stop their vomiting and restore body fluids.
If you have any of the following factors, your risk of severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy may be increased:
- You’re pregnant with twins or higher multiples.
- You had nausea and vomiting (either mild or severe) in past pregnancies.
- You’re prone to motion sickness.
- Your mother or sister had severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
- You have a history of migraine headaches.
It’s important to note that having nausea and vomiting during pregnancy usually does not harm your health or your baby’s health. It does not mean your baby is sick. However, it can become more of a problem if you can’t keep down any food or fluids and begin to lose weight, such as in the case of hyperemesis gravidarum. When this happens, it may affect the baby’s weight at birth.
How can I get relief from morning sickness?
Diet and lifestyle changes may help you feel better. Check out the following tips from ACOG:
- Take a multivitamin.
- Try eating toast or crackers in the morning (before you get out of bed) to avoid moving around on an empty stomach.
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Avoid smells that bother you.
- Eat small, frequent meals instead of three large meals.
- Try bland foods. For example, the BRATT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast and tea) is easy to digest. Also, select high-protein foods instead of spicy or fatty foods.
- Try ginger ale made with real ginger, ginger tea made from grated ginger, ginger capsules and/or ginger candles.
If you’re having a hard time keeping anything down, then it’s time to see a doctor to determine whether you need certain medications, such as an acid reflux blocker, bowel stimulant or even a sleep aid. Because severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can be difficult to treat and can cause health concerns, many experts recommend early intervention so it doesn’t become severe.
Need an OB/GYN? For a referral to a women’s care specialist, call 1-855-TENNOVA (836-6682) or visit TennovaGyn.com.
About the Author:
Dr. Meredith Murphy is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist with East TN Regional OB/GYN Associates in Knoxville. She specializes in a full range of women’s health services. Dr. Murphy delivers babies and performs gynecologic surgery at Physicians Regional Medical Center in Knoxville.