Earlier this week, Britain’s Prince William reported that Princess Kate would be cancelling a much-anticipated trip to Malta (a group of seven islands in the Mediterranean sea) due to intense morning sickness. During her first pregnancy, Kate also experienced extreme nausea, and was eventually diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, a rare condition that strikes pregnant women and can often be debilitating.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, 70-80 percent of pregnant women experience some type of morning/evening sickness but up to 60,000 cases are so severe they fit into the category of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). While some women finally see relief by week 20 (halfway through their pregnancy) others battle symptoms until their due date. The illness is believed to be caused by a rise in levels of the hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) though doctors still don’t know for sure. Unfortunately, there is no known preventative measure for HG.
Some experts believe the number of women suffering with HG could be higher than 60,000 because some women never go to the hospital, and are able to manage their symptoms at home. While some women experience what they consider to be extreme morning sickness, there are a few clear indicators of hyperemesis gravidarum.
Symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum
- Nausea accompanied by severe vomiting
- Vomiting that causes severe dehydration
- Nausea that does not subside
- Weight loss
- Low blood pressure
- Lightheadedness or fainting
While some women need to be hospitalized for monitoring and administration of intravenous fluids to restore electrolytes and nutrients, some can manage the illness at home.
- Eat small frequent meals
- Drink plenty of fluids during breaks in nausea
- Stick with dry foods including saltine crackers
- Bed rest
- Vitamin B6 (no more than 100 mg daily)
Doctors warn that it’s very important for pregnant women not to self-medicate. While the hospital may treat patients with intravenous medication including antihistamines, anti-reflux medicine and others, patients are urged to consult with their doctor before taking any oral or rectal pharmaceuticals.
Though HG can be physically draining and often cause depression, there is a finish line. Even women who suffered with the condition for several months report that within hours of delivery, the familiar nauseous feeling had finally subsided and it was replaced with a ravenous hunger.