Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The silent suffering of a few special mamas-to-be

Hyperemesis gravidarum

Hyperemesis gravidarum: ever heard of it? It wasn’t until Kate Middleton’s first pregnancy was announced that I felt that the general public became more aware of this very serious illness. I too suffered this debilitating condition that left me unable to work, care for my kids, or do even menial jobs for the first five and half months of all three of my pregnancies. This took a tremendous toll not only on me, but also my family and work colleagues as they tried to take on my responsibilities as well as their own. I was vomiting at least 16+/day and this was after having taken digestive enzymes, eating small amounts throughout the day, moving around, and following all the “rules” about how to manage nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Once I was rehydrated and medicated, the vomiting was reduced to 1/4 of its wrath. As Dr. Jennifer Ashton so aptly described to the world: “This is morning sickness like a hurricane is a little bit of rain.”

According to Wikipedia, “Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a complication of pregnancy characterized by intractable nausea, vomiting, and dehydration and is estimated to affect 0.5–2.0% of pregnant women.[1][2] Malnutrition and other serious complications, such as fluid or electrolyte imbalances, may result.

Hyperemesis is considered a rare complication of pregnancy, but because nausea and vomiting during pregnancy exist on a spectrum, it is often difficult to distinguish this condition from the more common form of nausea and vomiting experienced during pregnancy known as morning sickness.”

So what options are available to women such as me and Kate who just can’t keep anything down during pregnancy? Rehydration via an intravenous line, and medications containing vitamin B6 as well as an antihistamine are often used in western medicine, and work to control the severity of the symptoms. Like other mamas-to-be, women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum can take small meals once the condition is more manageable. Eating small amounts of protein and carbohydrates regularly throughout the day, and sipping water separately from meals, can certainly help control the severity of the symptoms and prevent it from spiralling out of control. But only once symptoms are properly managed first. So, if you or a loved one suffers from this, please do what you need to get the situation under control. (For a more in-depth and personal understanding of what a woman with hyperemesis gravidarum feels, this is a great article by Jessica Martin Weber).

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), factors such as the strength of a female’s digestive system and her body’s ability to adjust to changes in hormone levels, as well as the woman’s level of stress and/or emotional state prior to conception, can all contribute to how she will experience a future pregnancy. Ideally, women should be treated with TCM modalities a few months prior to conception to help optimize fertility and pregnancy outcomes, and reduce common symptoms experienced in pregnancy. However, once a woman is pregnant, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) still has an important role to play, especially if she is suffering from symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

Certain therapies that make up Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), such as acupuncture, gua sha, and herbal medicine can all be used. Acupuncture on certain points can be used to treat mild to moderate nausea and vomiting. Gua sha, a form of massage that employs a small tool and utilizes a scraping technique to produce local erythema on the skin, can be performed on the upper back and shoulders for more extreme cases of pregnancy vomiting such as women who experience hyperemesis gravidarum. Chinese herbal remedies can also be taken to help strengthen the body once the woman is able to take food and medications orally. Finally and most importantly, dietary suggestions and recipes are also given that can help the woman stay nourished and healthy during pregnancy despite her symptoms.

For more info, please feel free to contact me directly here or through my clinic site http://www.acupao.com

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