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When is Morning Sickness More Than Just Morning Sickness?

Are You Suffering From Hyperemesis Gravidarum?




Morning Sickness is a normal part of pregnancy that a wide majority of pregnant people experience. It would be difficult to claim that anybody ever enjoys it, but maybe we’re overlooking some underrepresented segment of the population who really love being nauseous. For now let’s make a blanket assumption that if you’re experiencing morning sickness you probably aren’t having much fun with it. Any time you aren’t feeling your best, it can make everything else you’re dealing with feel a lot worse, and on occasion it can also cause you to mistrust your own suspicions that something more might be wrong if your symptoms are more prolonged or intense than you expected them to be. Maybe you tell yourself “It’s been way more than 12 weeks, I shouldn’t still be morning sick, but I’m probably just being a wimp.” or “Wow, I really can’t keep any food down, but I guess that’s just a regular part of pregnancy.” This form of self-gaslighting is common for a wide range of abnormal pregnancy symptoms, but with unusually persistent morning sickness it can be even worse because many doctors are also not aware that it can be a sign of a much larger problem.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a rare condition, affecting around 3% of pregnancies that is characterized by intense nausea that does not subside after the first trimester, frequent vomiting – often to the point of being unable to keep anything down – and a resulting case of severe dehydration. It can last the full duration of a pregnancy, and in many cases requires hospitalization to restore fluids and deliver nutrients. Proper treatment is important to preventing malnutrition and ensuring that the baby is not born prematurely, but many find that, even with multiple hospitalizations, their doctor might not recognize their problems as any actual condition beyond very intense morning sickness, and might send them home with only the usual recommendations. This can leave many pregnant people feeling frustrated and alone, knowing something is wrong, but being unable to get confirmation and therefore doubting their instincts.

The important thing to know if you are experiencing these symptoms is that you aren’t making it up. The medical world has a long-held nasty habit of disbelieving women about their health. For that reason, many conditions that may arise during pregnancy have only recently been identified and explored. Even so, there are plenty of professionals out there who know how to diagnose the condition, and how to provide some relief for it. If your usual doctor can’t find anything wrong, keep trying others until you can find a professional that is familiar with your symptoms.

The treatment for Hyperemesis Gravidarum is unfortunately mostly supportive. There isn’t any miraculous drug that gets rid of it completely, but in a large number of cases, with intravenous hydration and feeding, as well as proper vitamin supplementation, the vomiting stops and the mother can resume life as normal, albeit with careful diet planning and increased rest. In more aggressive cases, medication can be prescribed to control the nausea, and once the worst of it is managed, many of the usual morning sickness remedies such as acupressure can help to ease residual nausea.

Because we do not yet completely understand the cause of HG, awareness is vital. A proper diagnosis can offer a lot of peace of mind, and can give people the ability to connect with others in their community with the same diagnosis. If there are enough people within the birth community talking in an informed manner about their HG diagnosis, then greater awareness will spread to the medical community at large, creating more incentive for the condition to be studied and pave the way for more information on how to prevent it outright.  

So if your morning sickness seems far more intense to you than it should be, you aren’t just being dramatic. You know your body best, and seeking help early on can help you avoid a lot of misery throughout the rest of your pregnancy. You owe it to yourself to find a caretaker who believes you.