Morning Sickness vs Hyperemesis Gravidum

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BY MICHELLE SMITH

As your  Health Care Advocate and as a health care professional with over ten years’ experience in our health care system, I know that symptoms can mimic each other to the point that even doctors think that  symptoms are of the lesser. With any encounter in the health care system, it is important to understand what symptoms need to be seen or explained before a diagnosis can be made.  So grab a pen and let’s get started. 

MORNING SICKNESS IS only MORNING SICKNESS: How many times have you heard that?  Normally, if nausea and vomiting is to occur it normally will start in the early stages of pregnancy. For many women the symptoms of morning sickness are their first signs of pregnancy. Most pregnant women find that the morning sickness improves after the 12th week of pregnancy. Unfortunately, for some women symptoms persist throughout their pregnancy. What causes morning sickness? Doctors still aren’t exactly sure what causes morning sickness, but the most popular theory is that morning sickness is the body’s reaction to the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone produced by the embryo following implantation. The presence of hCG is detected in pregnancy tests which is produced at higher levels during the first trimester than at any other time during pregnancy,

However, there is a fine line between morning sickness and HG (hyperemesis gravidarum). It can be quite a challenge for the average woman to convince their doctor that what they are experiencing is Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).

When Kate Middleton was hospitalized during her last pregnancy, it was noted that hyperemesis gravidarum (severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy) was the reason, which brought attention to the fact that “morning sickness” can be a serious matter.

Navigating the health care system can be complicated especially when you are pregnant. You can be overly emotional and unable to communicate the facts. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had a Health Care Advocate?  If you are from a cultural background that prides itself on home remedies, my advice to you is that morning sickness normally responds to home remedies while HG will not. Most women will suffer from morning sickness but only a few will experience HG.  

If you can’t keep fluids down, contact your doctor as soon as possible to prevent dehydration. Signs of dehydration include producing very little urine, not peeing for eight hours, or producing very dark urine. Some of the most common symptoms of HG: vomiting more than three or four times per day, becoming dehydrated, feeling light-headed or dizzy, losing more than ten pounds or five percent of your body weight due to vomiting or feeling nearly constant nausea.

Unfortunately, the condition often goes undiagnosed, because pregnant women think it’s just part of pregnancy. 

If your nausea interferes with your daily living, you need to seek treatment. ‘When you have to call in sick and stay home from work; when you can’t cook because it nauseates or exhausts you; when you can’t have sex; when you can’t take care of your family, this is not normal,’ 

Some women may need hospitalization for IV treatment to help with dehydration. If that doesn’t work some women also can have treatment through tube feeding or TPN. But this all depends on the severity of a women’s ability to keep nutrients down. If you have a history of HG in previous pregnancies let your doctor know.

Lastly, here are some remedies for conquering morning sickness. Every woman with HG needs plenty of rest and some changes to their diet and lifestyle. The same things that many women find useful for everyday morning sickness may be worth trying. 
These include: eat soda crackers fifteen minutes before getting up, try foods that are thought to reduce nausea, like lemonade, ginger ale or watermelon and avoid spicy or greasy foods, eat small meals every two hours, eating when hungry and not skipping meals, eat cold foods, which are thought to be easier to tolerate than hot foods, drink enough fluid every day, perhaps a small amount at a time and never during meals, get up slowly and don’t lie down after a meal, avoid getting too warm or being near strong odours or try complementary therapies such as ginger tea or tablets, acupuncture and acupressure.

This has been watching out for your health. Remember you are the most important part of your health care team.

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