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Chelsea, our pregnancy fitness expert, is a certified personal trainer at Crunch gym in San Francisco, California. She gave birth to her daughter, Madeira Re, in July 2006. Read more

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Most women experience some form of morning sickness during their pregnancy, especially between the 5th and 12th weeks. However, about one percent of pregnant women experience severe and prolonged nausea and vomiting, a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum. While normal morning sickness is thought to be caused by rising hormone levels, the precise cause of hyperemesis gravidarum is unknown.

Hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG, is characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance. Women who suffer from this condition may experience dehydration, headaches, confusion, rapid heart rate, and fainting; and may be unable to work, complete usual daily tasks, or maintain a normal social routine. Left untreated, HG can cause significant health problems for you and your baby. Acid-based disturbances caused by malnutrition and dehydration can lead to kidney and liver injury, persistent vomiting can lead to esophageal tears, and nutritional deficiencies can lead to neurological changes. Risks to the baby include premature birth, low birth weight, and a slight increase in malformation of the central nervous system and skin.

HG is usually diagnosed by ruling out any other cause of chronic nausea and vomiting such as pancreatitis, hepatitis, peptic ulcer disease, and hyperthyroidism. Your doctor will take a full medical history, perform a thorough clinical evaluation, and identify your symptoms.

How to tell the difference between HG and normal morning sickness:

Morning Sickness Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Nausea sometimes accompanied by vomiting Nausea accompanied by severe vomiting
Nausea that subsides at 12 weeks or soon thereafter Nausea that continues past the first trimester (13 weeks)
Vomiting that does not cause severe dehydration Vomiting that causes severe dehydration
You are able to keep some food down You cannot keep any food down

If you are diagnosed with HG, you will most likely be hospitalized immediately to restore fluids and replace electrolytes intravenously. You may also receive vitamin supplements, especially vitamins B6, C, and thiamine. You should not consume food orally until the vomiting stops and dehydration has been corrected; if vomiting persists, you may be given antiemetic (anti-nausea and vomiting) drug therapy.

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