Pregnancy is a wonderful experience despite waking up to morning sickness. Most women experience nausea and vomiting which usually go away in 12 to 14 weeks but it can turn into a nightmare if they don’t. Some expectant mothers have trouble keeping in any food including fluids throughout their pregnancy. This condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and it is not to be taken lightly.
Hyperemesis gravidarum can turn into 40 weeks of struggle if it goes untreated. If you experience high degree of morning sickness and weight loss up to 5% of pre-pregnancy weight in the first month, you should consider the possibilities of severe morning sickness aka Hyperemesis gravidarum. An expectant mother with HG may not be capable of keeping up with her regular routine due to lack of energy to do chores and run errands.
What happens to your body?
The inability to keep food in will cause weight loss and the same can eventually lead to malnutrition. The lack of nutrition will cause electrolyte imbalance which can lead to muscle spasm, weakness, twitching and convulsions. None of these are good news for an expectant mother.
As your body is not getting sufficient water, dehydration is not far away and significant decrease in urination is the first sign. Problems such as headache, fainting, fatigue and low blood pressure will also follow soon after.
Other issues such as constipation, cracked lips and mouth sores, acid reflux and sleep problems are also likely to develop. These physical impacts can eventually lead to emotional difficulties such as anxiety and depression. These can be harmful for the child as mother’s mental health is correlated to child’s health.
What is responsible for HG?
The cause of Hyperemesis gravidarum is not yet determined with 100% clarity. However, the best theory medical science has so far is change in hormone levels. The ordinary morning sickness is caused by a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which is released by placenta. When the level of HCG in blood is way higher than usual, it leads to Hyperemesis gravidarum. In many cases, the level of HCG can rise out of proportion to the extent of doubling every 48 to 72 hours.
What to do for relief?
There is no way of preventing Hyperemesis gravidarum but there are several ways to cope with the condition. Mild cases can be helped with some dietary changes, bed rest and antacids. Some women find temporary relief with smelling herbs like ginger and peppermint. You can also have snacks or drinks flavoured with herbs such as ginger biscuits, ginger cake, peppermint tea and chamomile tea. However, there are women with more severe symptoms and they may have to stay in the hospital for expert care.
Taking any medication without consulting your gynaecologist is a mistake. Every woman has different severity of HG and only a doctor can determine the appropriate treatment for each mother. Most women receive relief by 14th week but some women need consistent care throughout their pregnancy.
One of the most common aids to help the mother is intravenous therapy (IV) in which fluids and nutrition are provided through a tube that is inserted directly into the vein. This helps with hydration, electrolyte imbalance and lack of vitamins.
The diet to survive HG
The mantra to survive HG and deliver a healthy baby is “more proteins, more calories and even more fluids in small amounts and frequently”. You cannot predict the chances of having HG until you become pregnant. So the trick is to follow a healthy diet before getting pregnant itself to store proteins and vitamins. Your pre-pregnancy diet should include brown rice, wholegrain bread, fish, poultry, nuts and green leafy vegetables.
H2O + Proteins, calories, minerals and vitamins
Keeping yourself hydrated is essential to survive HG. Sipping on cold drinks, fruit juices and smoothies will make up for the water content you are losing. Savouring ice creams, ice lollies, ice cubes and frozen fruit juices might help to keep away nausea.
Fluids that are high in energy, protein and nutritional content will keep your body healthy. Milkshakes and chocolate drinks are great choices as they are delicious and high in calories. Soups are also great options as they are rich in nutrition. Adding extra cream and cheese to the soup will make it more delicious and increase calorie intake. You can also consult a dietician for the prescription of sip supplements that are available in the form of milkshake, juice, soup and yoghurt.
Small meal that counts
However, you can’t live off of fluids for 40 weeks. The best option is to make every small meal count. Bland foods will treat your stomach a lot better than overly spicy, greasy, fried dishes and decadent desserts. If meat and fish seems hard to digest then replace them with beans, peas and lentils.
To incorporate more protein and calories to your diet, adding yoghurt, cream or evaporated milk to fruits or melting some butter over vegetables will be helpful. Adding some extra cheese to mashed potatoes, pasta, soup and stew also is a good idea.
This is your chance to experiment and innovate healthy recipes. Try making some crackers, nachos and plain biscuits with healthy ingredients. It is essential to maintain a balance in your diet to ensure that your body is receiving all the vitamins and minerals it need for the healthy development of the baby. Eat small portions in every 1-2 hours to prevent yourself from going hungry. If you don’t go hungry, then the chances of feeling nausea is less.