Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, made headlines earlier this week when she was hospitalized on December 3 for hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a rare and intense form of morning sickness.
While the Duchess was released from King Edward VII Hospital on December 6 and will continue her recovery at home in Kensington Palace, the condition, which can result in extreme nausea and dehydration, could affect her for the remainder of her pregnancy and has been the subject of scrutiny around the world.
Unsure what HG is and interested in learning more? Consider these tips, which can help you determine if you’re at risk for the condition.
What is HG?
During a pregnancy, many women experience some form of morning sickness. From nausea to vomiting, the symptoms of morning sickness can vary in severity and leave moms-to-be feeling worse for wear.
However, women suffering from HG experience more extreme symptoms. Lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting and fainting are all characteristic of the condition. According to recent statistics, at least 60,000 cases of HG are reported annually in the U.S., but that number could be higher, since many women may choose homeopathy or other treatment for HG.
The differences between morning sickness and HG
Some women may have a difficult time determining the difference between HG and morning sickness. While similar, the two conditions have distinguishing characteristics that, if detected with the help of a healthcare provider, can allow women to receive the proper care and treatment that they need.
Those with morning sickness suffer from nausea, but may not always experience vomiting. Usually, the condition lasts during the first trimester, yet some women experience it beyond the initial 12 weeks of pregnancy. Women who do vomit are unlikely to become dehydrated.
In contrast, HG results in severe vomiting and, for some women, constant nausea. The condition can last for the entirety of pregnancy and can lead to extreme dehydration. It can also result in the loss of 5 percent or more of a woman’s pre-pregnancy weight and aversions to certain foods.
What are the treatments available for HG?
Similar to morning sickness, HG may be linked to rising levels of a hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which is released by the placenta. Some healthcare professionals believe that HG may be caused by multiple birth pregnancies, like in women carrying twins. In these instances, women are exposed to higher levels of HCG, potentially resulting in a more severe type of morning sickness.
Once women are diagnosed with HG, a healthcare provider may recommend a variety of treatments. Bed rest is commonly prescribed to women with the condition and can help them regain strength. Herbs like ginger and peppermint can be a source of relief from nausea. In severe cases, a woman may require hospitalization, including tube feeding and the administration of intravenous fluids to restore lost nutrients and hydration.
Avoiding the triggers of HG
In addition to bed rest and all-natural solutions, avoiding certain triggers may ease the symptoms of HG and prevent risks from developing. Blinking or bright lights, certain smells, foods, noises and motions can bring on the symptoms of HG. In addition, toothpaste, riding in a car, standing or even sitting upright can cause women to experience nausea and vomiting.
While only a doctor or medical professional can formally diagnose HG, by understanding more about it, women who are carrying an unborn child can be vigilant about monitoring certain signs and symptoms of the condition. HG can be a source of stress for expectant mothers and their loved ones, but by gaining a better sense of HG’s causes and impact, women can have happier and healthier pregnancies.