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Understanding Hyperemesis Gravidarum: A Severe Pregnancy Complication.

woman suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Understanding Hyperemesis Gravidarum: A Severe Pregnancy Complication.

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Everyone has heard of nausea in pregnancy and some women are lucky enough not to experience much at all. Unfortunately, for some the nausea is more intense and some even experience what is called ‘hyperemesis gravidarum’ (HG) – where nausea and vomiting is so extreme that it can cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and weight loss. 

By Nyanda Dennison, Clinical Nutritionist

The symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum can include:

  • Persistent and severe nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to keep food or liquids down
  • Weight loss of more than 5% of pre-pregnancy body weight
  • Dehydration (dry mouth, reduced urination, dizziness)
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Low blood pressure

Causes of the condition

The exact cause of hyperemesis gravidarum is not well understood, but it is believed to be related to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Elevated levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and estrogen are often implicated. Genetic factors may also play a role, as women with a family history of HG are more likely to experience it themselves.

What treatments are available?

Managing hyperemesis gravidarum often requires a combination of lifestyle changes, emotional support, medications, supplementation changes and in severe cases, hospitalisation. Things that have been known to help with HG are: 

  • Dietary modifications: Eating small, frequent meals and avoiding triggers (such as certain smells or foods) can help manage symptoms. High-protein snacks and bland foods may be more tolerable.
  • Hydration: Staying hydrated is crucial. Sipping water, ginger ale, or electrolyte solutions throughout the day can help maintain fluid balance.
  • Emotional support: HG can take a considerable toll on the emotional and mental wellbeing of pregnant women, who often experience depression, anxiety and feeling isolated. It is important to engage support from other pregnant women, as well as health professionals who are experienced in dealing with pregnancy and HG specifically. 
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids: Severe cases may require hospitalisation for IV fluids to treat dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Nutritional support: If eating continues to be difficult, other options for nutritional intake may need to be explored. 
  • Medications: Anti-nausea medications are often prescribed to control nausea and vomiting. Vitamin B6 supplementation has been shown to be very helpful. Some supplements, such as Iron, may make HG worse, which needs to be managed carefully. 

How we can help

Nyanda Dennison, one of our Clinical Nutritionists, has recently experienced hyperemesis gravidarum and understands the difficulties that come along with it. She can help you navigate the nutritional and emotional hurdles while supporting you to have a healthy and comfortable journey through pregnancy, working with your doctor and other healthcare support workers. Book an appointment with Nyanda today.

We offer Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine consultations

at 2 convenient locations, Brisbane CBD and Graceville