If you thought morning sickness was bad, meet hyperemesis gravidarum

Zofishan Umair
Zofishan Umair
Zofishan is a journalist, humour columnist, and a mum who has survived nappy explosions mid-air. She has over a decade of experience writing for print and online publications and is currently working on her first book.
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 6 mins read

Unfortunately, puking your guts out for nine months is a real thing for many expectant mums. If you thought morning sickness was tough, meet HG which is short for hyperemesis gravidarum. If you are reading this, chances are you, your partner, or a friend have hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). So, here’s all you need to know about HG, plus, some ideas on how you can help yourself, a friend, or a partner get through it.

What is hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)?


Pregnancy brings with it a lot of joy and happiness, but it can also cause certain, serious medical conditions that can affect a pregnant woman in a multitude of ways; one of which is hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).

HG is characterised by extreme nausea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, weight loss, and other complications.

While morning sickness is considered one of the sure telltale signs that you are pregnant, frequent vomiting due to HG can cause serious complications. But unlike typical morning sickness, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, so forgive me. HG can last throughout the whole pregnancy and may require hospitalisation or medical intervention.

What are the causes of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)


You know that time you tried that cheap sushi from the corner place and just knew it was a bad idea? You felt crappy for the next two days and were unable to keep anything in your body.

Well, having HG feels a lot like that, except you can’t say ‘never again’ or recover in 2–3 days.

While HG has the power to make you throw up and feel like crap for a whole 6–8 months, we still have no idea why it happens.

Doctors and researchers have really tried hard to understand the why behind this condition, but they are still not sure of the reasons. The exact cause of HG is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to hormonal changes during pregnancy.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy, particularly the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), are thought to be the culprit behind HG. Women who are carrying multiple foetuses or who have a history of HG in previous pregnancies are also at increased risk.

Additionally, genetics, gastrointestinal issues, psychological factors, and nutritional deficiencies may play a role. Specific triggers such as certain smells, foods, or stress may also exacerbate the symptoms of HG.


What are the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum?


The main symptom of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is severe and persistent nausea and vomiting that is more intense than typical morning sickness. This can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and weight loss (losing more than 5% of pre-pregnancy weight), and may also cause additional symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and an increased heart rate.

Expectant mums with HG may also experience a decrease in appetite, sensitivity to smells or certain foods, and difficulty keeping any food or liquids down. In severe cases, HG can lead to complications such as liver or kidney damage, muscle wasting, and even premature birth.

This is why a timely diagnosis and early intervention are critical for mums who are suffering from HG.


Diagnosis and treatment


The diagnosis of HG is usually made by a doctor based on the mother’s medical history, health, and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may first rule out other potential causes of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and, if you are diagnosed with HG, will also advise you on the different types of treatments available.

These may include lifestyle changes, such as dietary modifications and rest, as well as medications to control nausea and vomiting.

In severe cases, hospitalisation may be necessary for intravenous fluids and nutrition, as well as medication administration.

FAQs: 

How do you mentally deal with hyperemesis gravidarum?


Dealing with HG can be mentally challenging, as it can lead to feelings of frustration, isolation, and depression. Seeking emotional support from loved ones and healthcare providers and joining support groups can be helpful.

People who suffer from HG should practise self-care, such as getting lots of rest and engaging in relaxation techniques that can also help improve their mental well-being. In some cases, therapy or counselling may be necessary to manage the psychological impact of HG.

Who are some famous people with hyperemesis gravidarum?


If the term hyperemesis gravidarum sounds familiar, it could be because a few famous people have suffered from it. That’s right, celebrities may show up on the carpet looking flawless, but the fact is they lead the same lives as most of us. Or maybe HG doesn’t discriminate.

Rumours about Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, being hospitalised during her first pregnancy were quick to circulate, and soon enough, it was revealed that Kate suffered from HG and was hospitalised for three days.

The Duchess also experienced HG in her next two pregnancies, but was able to cope better and avoid hospitalisation by using mindfulness and hypnobirthing techniques.

Other celebrities, like Amy Schumer and Tori Spelling, have also suffered from HG and spoken about their experience in hopes of raising awareness about the condition and its impact on pregnancy.

What is the first-line treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum?


The first-line treatment for HG typically involves lifestyle modifications, such as small, frequent meals, avoidance of trigger foods or smells, and increased rest. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed, such as anti-nausea drugs like Diclegis, or vitamins B6 and doxylamine, which have been shown to be effective in managing HG symptoms.

However, it is important to note that you should always ask your doctor for a prescription and avoid self-medication.

Which treatment is best for HG?


The best treatment for HG depends on the severity of the symptoms and the individual’s medical history. In addition to lifestyle modifications, nutritional supplements, and anti-nausea medications, intravenous fluids and electrolyte replacement may be necessary in severe cases.

There are also other unique and alternate forms of treatment that include hypnosis, acupuncture, and even pharmacotherapy.

For more severe cases, tube feeding or parenteral nutrition may be required. It is best to avoid self-diagnosis and treatment, and it is important to get in touch with your healthcare provider, who can help you find the safest method to manage symptoms and prevent complications.

Is hyperemesis gravidarum fatal?


It might feel like the end of the world, but HG is not typically fatal. However, if left untreated, it can lead to serious complications like dehydration and even liver or kidney failure, which can be life-threatening. However, with proper medical management, the vast majority of women with HG recover fully without long-term consequences.

How can you help your partner or loved one cope with HG? 


The Duchess of Cambridge shared in a podcast that her husband, Prince William, felt helpless as she suffered from morning sickness. The same is true for many partners who found themselves helpless when their wives were diagnosed with HG.

Be understanding, and ask how you can help. Be prepared to clean up the mess and step in for emotional and moral support.

One of the sweetest things most partners and friends can do is lean in. Let your partner or friend get some extra rest while you put on that shiny armour and prepare the kids for school or tackle homework.

Be a friend and offer to do pick-ups and drop-offs or bring dinner for the kids.

Another tip: don’t offer advice. It might be well-intentioned but it may rub off the wrong way…and you may end up with puke on your shoes. Accidentally, of course.

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