Hyperemesis: Is It Real?

pregnant woman

I have heard reactions about Princess Kate’s hospitalization from a lot of mothers along the lines of,

Wow, must be nice! To be hospitalized for morning sickness? I wish I was a princess so I could be coddled every time I puked too! Hmpph.

And as any one of us who have experienced the pleasantries of morning all-day sickness can attest to, it is brutal. But even the 24/7 nausea and vomiting that many of us experience with pregnancy is not the same as the condition that the Princess and many pregnant women have suffered from.

According to the HER Foundation (Hyperemesis Education and Research), Hyperemesis Gravidarum (abbreviated as HG) is defined as “a debilitating and potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease marked by rapid weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration due to unrelenting nausea and/or vomiting with potential adverse consequences for the newborn(s).”

The cause of HG is largely unknown, but is thought to be a combination of factors, including hormones (but what condition involving women isn’t blamed on hormones?) and possibly structural changes in the stomach and esophagus during pregnancy.

So how can you know if your morning sickness is normal or warrants medical treatment?

HG is marked by the inability to maintain an adequate intake of fluids or nutrition; in other words, you can’t keep anything down. Women presenting with HG usually have suffered extreme weight loss, around twenty pounds, which might not be noticeable if they were overweight before getting pregnant, although it is still very significant. Lab testing can provide a more definitive diagnosis to show if dehydration is present. If left untreated, HG can cause severe and permanent organ damage and possibly even death.

Other signs and symptoms of HG, from the HER Foundation include:

  • Anemia
  • Body odor (from rapid fat loss & ketosis)
  • Confusion
  • Decreased urination
  • Dry, furry tongue
  • Excessive salivation
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Pale, waxy, dry skin

Did you experience severe morning sickness with your pregnancy?   

Photo via Flickr: koadmunkee

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Hyperemesis: Is It Real?

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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4 comments

  1. Erin says:

    I am currently 16 1/2 weeks along with my 4th child and I have had hyperemesis with all of them, with each pregnancy getting progressively worse. With my first two, I was able to manage the sickness with one-two anti-nausea medications but I still lost around 20 lbs between week 6 and week 18. With my third, I had a PICC line put in after dropping 25 lbs and being hospitalized multiple times for fluids. I ended up being put on TPN after dropping an additional 10 lbs, and then the dehydration caused gallstones, causing them to remove my gallbladder at 14 weeks. Around 18 weeks, I was able to start managing with just oral anti-nausea meds again. Now here I am with my 4th. The PICC line was again put in after severe dehydration, multiple episodes of passing out, and about 10 visits to the ER and infusion center for fluids. After 3 weeks, the PICC line got infected, causing a staph infection in my bloodstream which very nearly spread to my organs, and multiple blood clots formed in my arm and lung. I am now at 16 1/2 weeks, now out of the hospital, but still getting periodic fluids, on three anti-nausea medications, and blood thinner shots twice a day. I am starting to see some relief finally and can get a little bit of food down each day, but am holding steady at 30 lbs below my starting weight. It is very unlikely that I will even reach my pre-pregnancy weight at delivery and my babes are teensy tiny because of being so sick for so long. My biggest one was close to 7lbs, but he was the one I was on TPN for a month and a half so he got some good nutrition. My others have all been around the 5 lb mark. Hyperemesis is VERY real and it has been nearly fatal for me with its complications during this pregnancy and my third. My doctor has advised that I get a tubal done as quickly as possible after this one because my body absolutely cannot handle another pregnancy.

  2. busywithkids says:

    I have had 5 children and had hyperemesis with all of them. I couldn’t keep any type of food or liquid down and was sick 24 hours a day for 16 weeks. I would have to go to the hospital every other day to get IV hydration. There wasn’t anything I could do to keep food down. I tried home remedies and almost every anti-nausea medication a pregnant woman is allowed to take, and it still wouldn’t help at all. With each pregnancy I lost at least 15 pounds in the first trimester. With my last baby, I had a PICC line put in and received food and fluids through it along with having a home nurse. I was given Reglan and Zofran and STILL was sick. No fun throwing up when you haven’t even eaten anything all day long. The PICC line helped a lot, and I wasn’t as listless as I had been with the other 4. I felt like I knew more what was going on around me, more cognitive of my other children. I would have loved to deal with minor stomach upset for a few hours in the morning, and then otherwise be fine. Hyperemesis is definitely real. Women who have it sometimes don’t realize that it’s not normal to be *that* sick. If you have any suspicion that you may have it, please talk to your doctor. Staying at home dehydrated for days/weeks is not at all healthy for you or your baby.

    • Erin says:

      So glad to see another reply to this. One of the hardest things I struggled with was a mental feeling of being weak or stupid because I couldn’t just suck it up and get through the morning sickness like every other woman. Having to take leave from work because of the inability to function and wondering, what are people saying about me taking off work for a little nausea. It was very difficult to get past this feeling and accept that this is a medical diagnosis of a severe disease, not just morning sickness.

  3. luckily I haven’t had any sickness

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