What can you expect when you’re expecting? Nearly 90 percent of women who are pregnant will experience morning sickness, and one in 50 will be afflicted with the more severe hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a potentially life-threatening condition marked by weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration, due to continuous nausea and vomiting.
Rarely is morning sickness so severe that it’s classified as HG. However, women who are diagnosed with it can take comfort in knowing that there are ways to manage it. Kym Gohn, D.O., an osteopathic OB/GYN physician from Millcreek Community Hospital, discusses common symptoms associated with the condition and tips to help manage them.
Symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Labeled as a diagnosis of exclusion, HG can be confirmed only after ruling out other possible conditions. HG is believed to be triggered by high levels of the “pregnancy hormone” HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin. According to Dr. Gohn, HG typically is indicative of a multiple pregnancy or hydatidiform mole, an abnormal growth of the placenta. “HG is much more severe than the typical nausea and vomiting that a lot of women experience during pregnancy,” Dr. Gohn said. “Common symptoms, such as severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, lightheadedness, and fatigue, can last anywhere from several weeks until right up to when the mother gives birth.”
HG symptoms can be debilitating. According to Dr. Gohn, those who suffer from the condition cannot eat or drink without vomiting, may lose more than 5 percent of their body weight, and often are too sick to function.
“Morning sickness is normal the first three months of pregnancy, however; women who are vomiting constantly and can’t keep any nutrients down should see their doctor,” Dr. Gohn explained. “Due to the severity of this condition, avoiding environmental triggers, such as strong smells, medication, and IV rehydration and feeding, is essential. The good news is that with proper identification of symptoms and careful follow-up, serious complications for the baby or mother are rare.”
Tips to Combat Morning Sickness
While hospital treatment is almost always needed to relieve the complications of HG, various home remedies have been known to decrease the occasional nausea and vomiting associated with common morning sickness. Dr. Gohn recommends:
1. Eating a healthy BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) diet.
2. Drinking plenty of fluids and increasing fluid intake when you feel least nauseated. Seltzer, ginger ale, or other sparkling waters may be helpful.
3. Taking vitamin B6 (no more than 100 mg daily), Doxylamine (a sleep aid), or herbs like ginger or peppermint.
If your nausea and vomiting are so severe that you and your baby might be in danger, Dr. Gohn advises visiting your doctor. “Never try to self-medicate; always have a doctor prescribe the proper remedy.”
Planning a Healthy Pregnancy
Dr. Gohn advises expectant mothers to see their doctor regularly and contact them if they experience any severe symptoms during pregnancy. She also recommends taking prenatal vitamins daily and maintaining a healthy diet. “It isn’t necessary to eat for two, but eating a healthy and varied diet of around 2,000 calories daily is crucial to maintaining your health and the health of your baby.”
Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care that osteopathic physicians provide. DOs are fully licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas, including surgery. DOs are trained to consider the health of the whole person and to use their hands to help diagnose and treat patients.
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