Morning Sickness

If you are pregnant, have you been vomiting very frequently, resulting in extreme dehydration or causing you to be unable to keep any food down? You may have hyperemesis gravidarum, which is severe morning sickness.

What Causes Morning Sickness?

At least 70% of women experience morning sickness and 2% experience hyperemesis gravidarum. A study was recently released revealing that morning sickness results when a pregnant woman is sensitive to GDF15, which is a hormone the fetus makes in the placenta.

GDF15 levels can increase dramatically during the length of pregnancy, but pregnant women have varying levels of sensitivity to the hormone during pregnancy. As a result, not every pregnant woman develops hyperemesis gravidarum; some pregnant women have mild morning sickness, while others may not have any morning sickness at all.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, hyperemesis gravidarum can begin as early as the fourth week of pregnancy. Some women with hyperemesis gravidarum may get relief from the condition between the 14th and 20th week of pregnancy, but others may continue to have it throughout the rest of their pregnancy.

Symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum can include:

  • Electrolyte imbalances (low sodium, calcium, potassium, etc.)
  • Weight loss
  • Severe vomiting and nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Urinating less often
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Confusion or feeling disoriented
  • Feeling weak or faint
  • Jaundice (when your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow)
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Saggy or leathery-looking skin
  • Anxiety or depression

Treatment Options

Some women with hyperemesis gravidarum can treat it at home, if approved by your health care provider, by:

  • Taking antacids to relieve acid reflux and nausea
  • Getting enough rest
  • Changing your diet by eating bland foods (such as bread, rice, applesauce, toast, etc.) and high-protein foods
  • Incorporating peppermint or ginger into your diet

However, if you have severe hyperemesis gravidarum, a hospital stay may be needed so you can get vital nutrition and fluids you need through an IV or a feeding tube to make sure you stay hydrated. In the hospital, your provider may use a variety of medications to treat nausea and acid reflux. Bed rest may also be prescribed when you go home from the hospital.

Every pregnancy deserves to receive special care and some pregnancies require more care than others. When a higher level of expertise for high-risk pregnancies is needed, our specialists at UofL Physicians – Maternal-Fetal Medicine, part of UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health, offer compassionate care backed by academic expertise. Call 502-588-4400 to schedule an appointment.

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Article by: Tiffany Tonismae, M.D., FACOG

Tiffany Tonismae, M.D., FACOG, is a maternal-fetal medicine and high-risk obstetrician with UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health. Dr. Tonismae specializes in high-risk pregnancies that include diabetes and hypertension in pregnancy, multiple gestations and fetal anomalies. She has researched extensively involved management of extremely preterm pregnancies as well as mental health disorders and substance use disorders in pregnancy. Dr. Tonismae is also certified in perinatal mental health, and she is an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health with University of Louisville School of Medicine.

All posts by Tiffany Tonismae, M.D., FACOG
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