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Extreme morning sickness

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Many women experience mild morning sickness during pregnancy, which is unpleasant enough. But a few poor souls suffer from a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum, an extreme form of morning sickness that can make their pregnancy thoroughly miserable.

What is it?

Hyperemesis usually manifests as extreme vomiting. By this I mean projectile eruptions that can be as frequent as thirty or forty times every single day. It is exhausting, and the accompanying nausea can mean that even when the heaving stops there is no real respite. For most women who suffer from Hyperemesis the symptoms start very early in their pregnancy, often before conception has even been confirmed.

While the majority of women only suffer from the condition in the first half of their pregnancy, some unfortunate mums-to-be feel the effects throughout the 9 months. It can occasionally make a women feel so ill that even swallowing their own saliva can be enough to trigger a bout of vomiting.

What Causes it?

Doctors are unsure what causes Hyperemesis, however, it is widely believed that the condition relates to extreme sensitivity to pregnancy hormone levels in the body.

How Common is it?

It is thought that around 80% of women will suffer milder forms of morning sickness at some point during their pregnancy. Figures are vague because most women know to expect it and, provided it doesn’t become severe, will never mention to their Doctor of mid-wife. I’m a prime example of that – with both my babies the nausea clicked in from week seven, and remained with me until week thirteen when, mercifully, it vanished. I was never sick, but the queasy feeling was most unpleasant – I can only imagine how distressing persistent and heavy vomiting must be.

Of the 80% of overall morning-sickness cases, only 1-3% will experience Hyperemesis, and only a tiny proportion of these women will be blighted throughout their full term. The statistics may be welcome news for anyone trying to conceive, but are small comfort for the unlucky 1-3%.

Can it Harm my Baby?

Nope. Provided you look after yourself. Babies are actually little parasites (in the nicest possible way!) and your body will continue to provide them with all the nutrients they need, often at your expense. This is one of the reasons pregnancy can leaving you feeling so tired. No, make that exhausted!
Your baby should be fine, but it is important you take care of you. Excess vomiting can easily lead to dehydration, vitamin deficiency and, in very rare cases, neurological disorders. So getting help from your Doctor or midwife is essential. You don’t have to be well to grow a healthy, bouncing baby, but it certainly helps.

How Can I Manage the Effects?

extreme morning sicknessAs well as staying hydrated, it is important to eat as well as you can (little and often may be best). Your Doctor may also prescribe pregnancy-safe anti-sickness drugs. These don’t always help, but may be worth a try if your symptoms are particularly severe.
Some other tips include:

• Eat foods containing ginger
• Suck ice-cubes if the idea of a liquid drink it too much
• Minimise your stress levels whenever possible
• Try alternative therapies if you feel they may help
• Sip peppermint or ginger tea
• Avoid foods that have strong smells

Don’t Suffer in Silence

Pregnant women often feel under pressure to ‘put-up and shut-up’. Pregnancy itself isn’t an illness, but can result in side effects ranging from a mild headache to more severe problems such as Hyperemesis. These problems are very real, and can be very distressing, and no woman should ever feel the need to apologise for them.

Severe morning sickness can leave you feeling isolated and depressed, and it is important to seek help if you are feeling this way. There are support groups available, and simply talking about how you are feeling with family, friends, or your GP can help relieve the burden. In recognition of the seriousness of Hyperemesis the Royal London Hospital has launched a new clinic where sufferers are welcomed and their condition and concerns treated with the respect they deserve. Attendees at the clinic can benefit from intravenous rehydration, anti-sickness medication, and a sympathetic ear. An ultrasound is also made available to women who may be concerned about their baby.

When I was pregnant I was only vaguely aware of Extreme Morning Sickness as a condition. Raising awareness of it plays an important role in the support of sufferers, so spread the word. And if you have a friend or family member who is suffering from Hyperemesis then be sure to offer as much support as you can, both physically and emotionally.

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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