Pregnant Kate Middleton’s morning sickness – What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

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The announcement of the second pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge has also brought with it the condition hyperemesis gravidarum, which the Duchess suffered with during her first pregnancy.

This is a rare condition which causes the pregnant woman to vomit severely throughout the term of pregnancy. The severity of the vomiting could cause weight loss, an accumulation of toxins in the urine or blood (ketosis), or dehydration.

The condition affects around 3.5 in every 1000 pregnant women and if severe, could cause the woman to vomit blood. Symptoms include low blood pressure, fast heart rate, confusion, lethargy, headaches and severe nausea.

The treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum is anti-sickness tablets and intravenous fluid supply.

The simple translation of the term used for this condition is that hyperemesis means vomiting and gravidarum means in pregnancy.

Women who are constantly vomiting during their pregnancy, and who are unable to retain any nutrients are required to be admitted to hospital. The length of the hospital stay is dependent on the person, but most are discharged within a few days. It depends on their level of keeping fluids in their system.

A specialist dietician at London Bridge Hospital, Robyn Coetzee, said that it is extremely difficult to obtain sufficient nutrition if constant vomiting is experienced. She said there are no real rules to overcome nausea during pregnancy, but has offered the following suggestions:

• Keep hydrated by sipping small quantities of fluids throughout the day
• Have small, regular meals and snacks as an empty stomach worsens the feeling of nausea
• Plain, cold foods are often kept down better than hot food as it has less of an aroma, which may be the cause of the nausea
• Spicy and fatty foods should be avoided
• Suck or sip ginger-flavoured sweets and drinks
• Do not enter the kitchen while meals are being prepared. It is best to find someone else to prepare your meals of make use of ready prepared meals to avoid the cooking smells
• Consume fluids and solids separately as drinking and eating at the same time could worsen nausea

The condition is thought to be caused by raised levels of hCG, the ‘pregnancy hormone’.

Image Credit: Christopher Neve

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