The Duchess of Cambridge made national news when Kensington Palace announced she had severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum). Most women experience some kind of morning sickness during pregnancy, so what was it that sent the princess to the hospital?
Although unpleasant, morning sickness is considered a normal part of a healthy pregnancy. What’s not normal is when morning sickness becomes so severe that a woman persistently vomits several times a day, loses weight, and becomes dehydrated or at risk for dehydration. If left untreated, this rare pregnancy-related condition can interfere with a woman’s health and her baby’s ability to thrive.
The cause of severe morning sickness is unknown. Research suggests that it might be related to hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. It also might be hereditary, because it is more common in women whose close family members (such as mothers and sisters) have had it. Other factors can increase a woman’s chances of having severe morning sickness during pregnancy, such as carrying multiples, a history of motion sickness, or migraine headaches with nausea or vomiting.
The nausea and vomiting that happens in a case of severe morning sickness are so extreme that they can have harmful effects on both the mother and baby. The inability to keep down food makes it difficult for a woman to meet her nutritional needs. As a result, she might lose weight. A loss of fluids, combined with the loss of stomach acid that occurs during vomiting, can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
If a woman does not receive treatment, it can cause complications, including organ failure and the premature birth of her baby.
It’s important to call the doctor right away if a pregnant woman has any of the following symptoms:
- nausea that persists throughout the day, making it impossible to eat or drink
- vomiting that occurs three to four times per day
- vomit that is a brownish color or has streaks of blood
- weight loss
- fainting or dizziness
- decreased urination
- a rapid heart rate
- recurrent headaches
- unpleasant, fruity mouth or body odor
- extreme fatigue
Treatment options for morning sickness can range from eating a bland diet, taking vitamins and avoiding sensory stimuli to medications to stop the vomiting to hospitalization and intravenous fluids in the most severe cases. The best thing to do is see an ob/gyn and get a personal assessment and treatment plan.
Dr. Damen Hershberger is a dedicated, reassuring, and comforting obstetrician and gynecologist who practices at Heartland Women’s Group. He is also a clinical instructor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology. A certified robotic surgeon, he has lectured internationally on the subject of minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Hershberger and his wife are Wichita natives and have four children. Contact Heartland Women’s Group at (316) 858-7100 or www.heartlandwomensgroup.com