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Royally Sick: What Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life

Morning Sickness Only Much Worse, Our Sassy Midwife Shani Tells Us About Hyperemesis Gravidarum & Shares Some Tips Too!

With the delightful news that Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge, is pregnant with her 3rd child, as a Midwife what popped into my head was…here comes the vomiting! Widely reported, it is well known that the Duchess suffered terrible nausea and vomiting with her first and second pregnancies and was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

This is the mother of all morning sickness…basically, it’s where morning sickness goes to be sick.

A more official definition is ‘severe and excessive nausea and vomiting in pregnancy that often leads to electrolyte imbalances in the body. Leading to weight loss, dehydration hospital admission and medicated assistance.’

Pregnant mothers will suffer symptoms often around the clock, all day and often even at night.

In hyperemesis gravidarum, women start to feel the symptoms of pregnancy extremely early, at times from 4 weeks. Typically, the symptoms ease between 15-20 weeks, but in extreme cases, until the day you deliver (my esophagus is having sympathy cramps!)

The cause of hyperemesis and why some mothers get it and others don’t is unknown, however, is all linked to changes in hormones levels in the pregnancy.


How does it differ from normal “morning sickness”?

Whereas common morning sickness can affect from 50-70% of the pregnancy population, the diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum actually only affects 1:100 mothers.

Although morning sickness can leave many mothers feeling awful with nausea and vomiting for much of their early pregnancy, Hyperemesis is an almost debilitating diagnosis.

Mothers are unable to eat or drink anything for hours and even days without vomiting, can have episodes of extreme fatigue or fainting, low blood pressure and high heart rate and often needing hospital admission for help with intravenous electrolyte and saline therapy.

As a Midwife, I can tell you acute sufferers need help to walk they are so weak, are unable to have the energy to lift their heads of their pillow and are admitted into hospital several times in their pregnancy. A very tiring start to a long road of tiredness!

Can the baby be affected?

One of the compounding reasons that women feel so unwell, is that the body continues to nourish the baby with whatever you have left in you (hmmm this sounds like parenting in general right?!)

If each bout of dehydration is treated, it is very unlikely that the baby will be unharmed, However, if women continue to lose weight because in their pregnancy, then there is an increased risk that their babies will be smaller in weight too.


Don’t have Hyperemesis Gravidarum but morning sickness got you feeling low? Here are some top tips:

  • Eat very small snacks often, even when you don’t feel like it. Crackers, nuts, berries, jelly. Eating often helps to keep nausea down so although it may feel like the last thing you want to do, keep those small snacks packed in your bag
  • Drink what you can, when you can. Let’s be honest water just does not cut it when you are feeling sick so get creative. Sparkling water with a drop of cordial, lemon infused water, watered down fruit juice- just avoid caffeine and sugary drinks.
  • Ice ice baby…( gets me dancing every time). Can’t drink? Chew ice. Freeze electrolyte and sports drinks into ice cube trays and try to suck on one every hour on those days where nothing stays down.
  • Rest when you can. If your body is telling you to sleep through nausea, and you can take a few days off work, then do so. A good rest can do wonders.
  • If your mouth feels like a small furry animal most of the day, carry a small toothbrush and toothpaste with you to help freshen up when you need it most.
  • Smell something fresh when other food smells are making you sick. Fresh lemon peel or rosemary can do the trick. A cotton bud soaked in a little rosewater did wonders for me.
  • Know it will pass! It may seem like far too long, but normal morning sickness will often either completely pass or at least ease allowing you to enjoy the pregnancy once more.



Featured Image, Image#2 from Flickr, Image #3 by Chris Benson on Unsplash

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