Surviving Severe Morning Sickness

What can you expect when you’re expecting? Nearly 90% of pregnant women 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 diagnosed with this condition can take comfort in knowing that there are ways to manage it. David Oliver, DO, an osteopathic physician from Ocala, Fl discusses the common symptoms associated with the condition and provides tips to help manage them.

Symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Labeled as a diagnosis of exclusion, HG can only be confirmed after ruling out other possible conditions. HG is a condition believed to be triggered by high levels of the ‘pregnancy hormone’ HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin. According to Dr. Oliver, HG is typically 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,” explains Dr. Oliver. “Common symptoms, which include severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, lightheadedness, and fatigue, could last anywhere from several weeks to right until the mother gives birth,” He says.

HG symptoms can be debilitating. According to Dr. Oliver, sufferers cannot eat or drink without vomiting, may lose greater than 5% of their body weight, and, most times, are left too sick to function.

“Morning sickness is normal the first three months of a pregnancy, however it’s time to see a doctor if you are vomiting constantly and can’t keep any nutrients down,” advises Dr. Oliver. “Due to the severity of this condition, avoidance of environmental triggers such as strong smells, medication, and IV rehydration and feeding, are essential. 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. Oliver recommends:

  1. Eating a healthy BRAT (banana, rice, applesauce, and toast) diet.
  2. Drinking plenty of fluids and increasing fluid intake during times of the day 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. Oliver advises visiting your doctor. “Never try to self-medicate; always have a doctor prescribe the proper remedy.”

Planning a Healthy Pregnancy  

Dr. Oliver advises all expectant mothers to see their doctor regularly and consult them if they experience any severe symptoms during their pregnancy. He also recommends taking prenatal vitamins daily and eating healthy. “You don’t need to ‘eat for two,’ but sticking to a healthy and varied diet of around 2,000 calories is crucial to maintaining your health and the health of your baby.”

Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care 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 use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients.