When you think of pregnancy symptoms, one of the most common thoughts will be of morning sickness. However, about 1 in 300 pregnant women every year will experience and extreme form of this called Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which by definition is the loss of at least 5% of the total body weight. Many of these women are admitted to the hospital for treatment, and it's unclear how many are not reported and treated as outpatients.
A recent study suggests that if women have sickness severe enough to be hospitalized, such as a case of hyperemesis, then she is more likely to have a girl than a boy. 56% of mothers who were hospitalized in early pregnancy had girls, compared to the 44% who had boys. Hospitalization in the later stages of pregnancy did not show this correlation.
You might be wondering how it's determined if your nausea falls into this category. Generally when women experience hyperemesis gravidarum you will see a weight loss of 5% or greater, intractable vomiting, disturbed nutrition, retinal hemorrhage, and potentially renal and liver damage.
Other than the vomiting and nausea the mother might also experience very sensitive olfactory sensations, bad taste in the mouth, shivering, difficulty reading (from dehydration and changes to the eye), and delayed gastric emptying. Other complications are rare, however it has been noted that there is an increased incidence of gall bladder problems during and after pregnancy.
Treatment can include the following:
- Immediate hydration through IV access
- Sea Bands (Acupressure bands) & Acupuncture
- Medication (varies and may have other unwanted side effects)
- Tube Feedings
- Total Parental Nutrition (TPN)
When medications are discussed there are several that can be used. Sometimes simple antihistamines are used. Vitamin B6 has also shown great benefit to women suffering from hyperemesis. There are also herbal and other preparations that have been tried with varying success, like powdered ginger.
The decision to use medication can be a difficult one, and it is not a decision that should be made lightly. However, when the potential benefits of the medication outweigh the potential risks of the medication to the mother or the baby, as in some cases of hyperemesis that haven't responded to other treatments, medication may be the appropriate treatment.