You've probably heard by now that Kate Middleton is pregnant! After months of speculation, the royal family made an announcement earlier this week after the duchess was rushed to the hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), or extreme morning sickness.
Think of HG as the evil older brother of morning sickness. While some vomiting and nausea during the first trimester of pregnancy is fairly common, HG takes it up a notch. Affecting anywhere from 1 to 3 percent of pregnant women, symptoms include persistent and severe vomiting, the inability to tolerate foods or liquids, dehydration, and rapid weight loss, explains Shannon Clark, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch. "Left untreated, it can cause malnutrition, as well as vitamin and mineral deficiencies for both the mother and fetus," she adds.
More prone to affect young women, HG can last for more than 20 weeks, be associated with depression and anxiety, and, in some cases, trigger a buildup of toxins in the blood and urine known as ketosis as the body tries to compensate for lack of nutrients and food.
While doctors aren't entirely sure what causes HG, Dr. Clark suspects it's linked to hormonal changes, because the amount of pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is related to the severity of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
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"As the predominate hormones of pregnancy increase, so will vomiting and nausea," she says. "So some vomiting and nausea can be a sign of a healthy pregnancy. But if a woman is experiencing symptoms so severe that it disrupts her quality of life, she should see her doctor sooner rather than later because dehydration can occur quickly in pregnant women."
Since women with HG can't tolerate anything taken orally, doctors administer anti-nausea medication as well as fluids intravenously to restore nutritional imbalances. Once the vomiting stops (if it does), bland food may be reintroduced into the diet slowly, and the patient will ultimately be discharged with medications to take at home until the HG subsides completely.
And while HG is serious and requires medical attention, it is true that it could be a sign of twins. "Since hCG is produced by the placenta, women carrying twins have more placental tissue and are more prone to vomiting and HG," Dr. Clark says.
Have you ever experienced HG? How bad was yours? Let us know in the comments below!