What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

It was announced today that Kate Middleton was admitted to hospital due to a case of hyperemesis gravidarum. We explain this rare disorder and share some tips on what you can do if morning sickness is an issue for you as well.

kate middleton

Hyperemesis gravidarum is quite the scary medical word. It is a disorder that has affected pregnant women for centuries, sometimes with fatal consequences.

It is believed that famous English novelist Charlotte Bronte died of the disorder four months into her pregnancy in the mid-1800s. Since then considerable improvements have been made in treating this painful and exhausting disorder. But many women, such as the beloved Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, continue to suffer from its effects.

What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

Many women suffer from morning sickness throughout pregnancy, but when the nausea and vomiting become so severe and persistent that a woman’s health and well-being are deeply affected, the problem may in fact be hyperemesis gravidarum. This rare disorder affects roughly 1 per cent of pregnant women. The constant vomiting caused by hyperemesis gravidarum can lead to dehydration, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and the loss of more than 5 per cent of a woman’s original body weight. WebMD explains that no specific line exists to separate hyperemesis gravidarum from typical nausea and vomiting during pregnancy; it is simply at the highest end of the spectrum in terms of symptoms women experience.

How do you know if you have it?

Because nausea and vomiting are common in pregnancy, it can be hard to determine whether your symptoms are normal or if they are as severe as hyperemesis gravidarum. The American Pregnancy Association explains that if your nausea doesn’t subside and is accompanied by severe vomiting that doesn’t allow you to keep any food down and is leaving you dehydrated, it may in fact be hyperemesis gravidarum. If this is the case, it is advised to seek medical attention before dehydration and malnutrition can set in.

How is it treated?

If you suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, doctors rely on a variety of techniques to ensure that you and your baby are safe. They may insert an IV or a feeding tube to get you and your child the nutrients you require. Medication may also be prescribed to help with the nausea and vomiting. If your morning sickness isn’t so severe that hospitalization is required, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable. The American Pregnancy Association recommends taking small sips of water throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated and to eat small meals often. It also suggests resting as much as possible and giving yourself plenty of time to get up slowly in the morning. If your symptoms get to be too much, contact your health care provider for more tips and treatment recommendations.

Photo courtesy of WENN.com

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