By now you’ve likely heard the joyful news that Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton is expecting. You’ve also likely heard that she’s been hospitalized with something called hyperemesis gravidarum. So what is this mysterious ailment? Simply put, it’s an unusually severe version of the morning sickness typically associated with pregnancy (“emesis,” in fact, is just a fancy medical term for “vomiting”).
“Nausea and vomiting are very common in pregnancy and probably affect 90 percent of pregnant women to varying degrees,” said Dr. Steven Laifer, chief of obstetrics at Bridgeport Hospital. “In about 1 to 2 percent of pregnant women, the nausea and vomiting are much more severe.”
This is hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG. Women with this condition can’t keep down any food or liquid and, as a result, can cause dehydration, nutritional deficiencies, unusual weight loss, difficulty with daily activities and other complications. Laifer said the hospital sees a few women a month afflicted with the condition. Often, when a women with HG is hospitalized, it’s for dehydration.
According to the HER Foundation, a hyperemesis education and research organization, there’s no known cause for HG, though there are numerous theories (one is that it’s more common in women expecting twins). It’s often treated with medications, bed rest, intravenous fluids and nutritional therapy.
Thankfully, the condition is usually relatively short-lived said Dr. William Cusick, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology and director of maternal fetal medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. “For most women, this gets better by the second trimester,” he said.
Laifer agreed, but added that, in a small percentage of HG sufferers, the condition can last throughout the entire pregnancy.
To learn more about HG, visit http://www.helpher.org/.