May 15th is Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day, and we'd like to shed light on this debilitating condition that affects some women during pregnancy.
Most women will experience some form of morning sickness during their pregnancy.
Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, commonly referred to as "morning sickness," typically begins around 6 weeks and ends sometime in the second trimester. In addition to nausea and vomiting, women may experience aversions to certain types of food or smells. Remedies for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy vary by individual and culture. Many women are eager to share what worked for them, but one woman's saving grace might send another woman running to the bathroom in disgust.
Hyperemesis gravidarum, on the other hand, is NOT morning sickness. Women with hyperemesis gravidarum have nausea and vomiting that does not subside, and can be dangerous to both mother and baby if left untreated.
According to the Hyperemesis Education & Research Foundation, hyperemesis gravidarum is defined as:
...a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It is generally described as unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids. If severe and/or inadequately treated, it is typically associated with:
- loss of greater than 5% of pre-pregnancy body weight (usually over 10%)
- dehydration and production of ketones
- nutritional deficiencies
- metabolic imbalances
- difficulty with daily activities
It is important to seek treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum right away. Find a provider who is understanding and can help you get the access to the care you need.
If you are pregnant and are unable to keep food down, suspect dehydration, or experience dizziness when you walk, contact your doctor immediately. You may need to receive IV fluids or other medications in order to keep the nausea under control. Some severe cases require hospitalization, a PICC line, a Zofran pump, and even home health care. Communication with your doctor about your symptoms is hugely important!
If you are close to someone struggling with hyperemesis gravidarum, it is important to remember that she is not exaggerating or trying to get attention. She is suffering and needs your ongoing help, patience, and support.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is greatly misunderstood and can be extremely isolating to those who suffer from it. Some women even experience PTSD after surviving hyperemesis gravidarum. These women are survivors and they sacrifice much for the health of their babies.
Believe her. Ask her how she's doing. Show up. Keep showing up. Show up some more. Help with older siblings. Listen. Help around the house. Remind her that she isn't alone and that there is an end in sight.
If you or a loved one is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum here in Memphis, Doulas of Memphis can help. Our postpartum doulas can provide antepartum doula care during pregnancy, are able to support you through birth, and are ready to help after baby is here as you work towards getting back to normal. Call us at (901) 308-4888 or use our contact form to reach us online, and let us know how we can support your family.