May 15 is Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day
Morning sickness- nausea and vomiting during pregnancy- occurs in up to 90 percent of women. Even animals, including a Gorilla named Calaya, have experienced it, too.
But about 2 percent of pregnant women suffer a more severe form known as hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG. The hallmark symptoms include rapid weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration due to unrelenting nausea and vomiting. It is the second-leading cause of hospitalization during pregnancy because some women will need intravenous fluids and, in the most severe cases, feeding tubes.
The HER Foundation, an organization dedicated to HG education, research and advocacy, offers information that compares the symptoms of normal morning sickness to HG.
Marlena Fejzo is an associate researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA who studies the condition. She suffered from HG herself and lost a pregnancy to it. She is encouraged by the advances being made to better understand this complex physiological disease.
“We finally have some answers as to the cause of this debilitating condition, debunking the theory that it is all in the woman’s head,” says Fejzo.
Here are 4 recent findings:
- It’s associated with neurodevelopmental delay in children. Women who experience HG are three times more likely to have children with developmental deficits, including attention disorders and language and speech delays. Researchers believe that nutritional deficiency early in pregnancy may be the cause rather than medications used to treat HG.
“My hope is that one day we can find a treatment,” says Fejzo.