In the first trimester of pregnancy, it is common for most women to experience episodes of nausea accompanied by vomiting, referred to as morning sickness. Although bothersome, the condition is usually harmless. It may begin around the 6th week of pregnancy, get to its peak around the 9th week and disappear by the 16th to 18th week. In normal situations, use of antacids, changes in diet and much rest can ease the condition. However, for some women the condition is not just annoying, but also potentially dangerous, thus requiring constant monitoring throughout the pregnancy. Such severe manifestation of morning sickness is referred to as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).
A study reveals that morning sickness is so generalized across populations that people have come to accept it as part of the pregnancy journey. This makes it very difficult to identify cases of hyperemesis gravidarum, as most people will hardly seek medical help even when experiencing symptoms of severe morning sickness. Even some doctors are unaware of this condition and will always treat it as normal morning sickness.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is a threatening condition since it causes most women to lose up to 5% of their pro-pregnancy weight and leaves them unable to keep anything down, even water. Other symptoms that accompany the condition may include extreme fatigue, jaundice, confusion, headaches, secondary anxiety and low blood pressure. The severe nausea and vomiting leads to an electrolyte disturbance, and this may require the patient to be hospitalized so that they can receive fluid and nutrition intravenously. Treatments may also include nasogastric, percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy and administration of medications such as antihistamines, metoclopramide and anti-reflux.
New findings suggest that when nausea and vomiting extend beyond the 18th week of pregnancy, there is need for alarm. While the exact cause is still unknown, there is evidence to believe that it may be because of hormonal changes during pregnancy and how the body may react to these changes. There is also the hereditary risk factor, which means that having a history of HG in your family puts you at higher risk. Additionally, the condition is also more common in overweight expectant mothers, first time mothers and those expecting more than one child.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for hyperemesis gravidarum. The symptoms can however be managed and the treatments used will depend on the severity.
There is also no particular method to diagnose HG. Therefore, doctors will always check for signs of dehydration and carry out tests to rule out other gastrointestinal issues. With proper management women suffering from HG can carry the baby to full term and safely deliver a healthy baby.
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