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Pregnant hyperemesis: definition, symptoms, treatment
Do you have any questions about hyperemesis gravidarum? About the signs that should make you think about it? About the solutions you can put in place if you suffer from it? We answer all the most frequently asked questions that pregnant women have about hyperemesis gravidarum.
Nausea and vomiting are common in pregnant women. Especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. If they are too frequent or persist over time, it is called hyperemesis gravidarum. This specific hormonal disease of pregnant women can be treated with simple medication. Hospitalisation is only necessary in very rare cases.
What is the definition of hyperemesis gravidarum?
Hyperemesis gravidarum is also called "hyperemesis gravidarum" according to its original medical name in Latin. Hyperemesis gravidarum is characterised by severe nausea and vomiting, repeated and lasting over time during pregnancy.
Nausea and vomiting are common during pregnancy. It is also known as pregnant nausea and vomiting. However, these types of vomiting differ from hyperemesis in pregnancy because :
- their peak intensity and frequency is reached in the ninth week of pregnancy;
- they rarely last beyond the 14th week of pregnancy;
- they affect many more pregnant women.
What are the signs of hyperemesis gravidarum?
Obviously, the main sign of hyperemesis gravidarum is the existence of repeated vomiting, which the pregnant woman can easily identify. This vomiting may be accompanied by other signs:
- an important weight loss (more than 5% compared to the weight before the vomiting);
- generalized extreme fatigue;
- abdominal pain;
- intense thirst;
- malaise or unconsciousness.
However, these signs can also be suggestive of other illnesses. This is why the diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum must be made by a health professional who is used to treating pregnant women.
Is it possible to have hyperemesis gravidarum without vomiting?
Clearly not. If you "only" suffer from severe nausea, but have not vomited or only anecdotally (less than once a week), the diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum will not be made.
What to do if you have signs of hyperemesis gravidarum?
If your vomiting is very frequent (every day or even several times a day), over more than a few days, do not hesitate to consult the health professional who is monitoring your pregnancy. Do not try to take self-medication, as many are not compatible with pregnancy.
Also, do not wait for the systematic monthly visit. It is better to seek advice from a health care professional as soon as possible.
If you don't have an appointment right away, here are some solutions that you can already put in place to try to limit vomiting :
- eat small quantities more often than usual. For example, go from 3 intakes of food per day to 6 to 8 intakes per day;
- give preference to foods that "go down well", are easy to chew or do not need to be chewed, and are as disgusting as possible;
- rest as much as possible;
- do not lie down within tens of minutes after eating.
How is hyperemesis gravidarum diagnosed?
Hyperemesis gravidarum is diagnosed mainly through clinical questioning. Your health professional will ask you many questions to find out:
- how long have you been vomiting?
- how often you vomit;
- if you have difficulty eating and doing your daily activities.
A blood test and urine tests may be prescribed. These will mainly enable us to make what is known as a differential diagnosis. By reading your results, your health professional will eliminate the possibility that you have a disease other than hyperemesis gravidarum, which is responsible for the vomiting. Ultrasound is also regularly used to rule out a gastric cause for the vomiting.
Repeated vomiting can still have an impact on your biological examinations. For example, creatinine and urea increase in quantity, while you have less sodium, potassium and chlorine in your blood.
The greater the biological effects of hyperemesis gravidarum, the more severe the hyperemesis gravidarum is said to be.
How common is hyperemesis gravidarum?
Hyperemesis gravidarum is not one of the most common diseases of pregnant women. It occurs in 0.3 to 2% of pregnancies in industrialised countries.
However, vomiting and nausea during pregnancy are much more common.
What are the consequences of hyperemesis gravidarum on the foetus and the mother?
It is very rare that hyperemesis gravidarum has an impact on the foetus. If mothers have a very severe form of hyperemesis gravidarum, the baby may be born with a lower birth weight. But this is not always the case. There is also no risk to the baby's survival.
Hyperemesis gravidarum has a greater impact on the mother, who is more tired than in a normal pregnancy. Stopping work is often necessary. It is very rare, however, that hyperemesis gravidarum jeopardises the long-term health of the mother. It disappears in the first few weeks after the birth of the baby at the latest.
What is the treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum?
The treatment of hyperemesis in pregnancy is based on 2 main lines of treatment:
- modification of lifestyle habits;
- taking medication.
Pregnant women suffering from this pathology are initially encouraged to :
- adapt the frequency and quantity of her meals;
- not expose themselves to odours that they find unpleasant and nauseating;
- drink regularly and in small quantities.
If this is not enough to significantly reduce vomiting, medication can be introduced. These are medicines that can be swallowed to combat vomiting.
In rarer cases, in case of severe hyperemesis, hospitalisation of the mother-to-be is necessary. This makes it possible to monitor the course of symptoms and to administer intravenous infusion therapy. It reduces vomiting and makes up for any vitamin deficiencies linked to vomiting.
How long does hyperemesis in pregnancy last?
Hyperemesis gravidarum lasts at the latest until the baby is born, or in the weeks following its birth. And this without any treatment being given.
However, medication can reduce or even eliminate the nausea and vomiting well before, and within a few days after, its onset. Hygienic and dietetic measures are also important and should ideally be maintained throughout the pregnancy.
Now you know more about hyperemesis in pregnancy. If you still have questions, do not hesitate to talk to your midwife or gynaecologist during an obligatory visit.