What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum:
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a serious condition that impacts a low percentage of pregnant women. While many women suffer morning sickness during the first trimester, HG is like that, only far worse, sufferers experience frequent nausea and vomiting during their pregnancy. The symptoms are not 'just bad morning sickness'; this is a severe life-threatening complication that is fortunately rare, but nevertheless very real for those who suffer HG. HG can easily lead to dehydration and even liver and thyroid dysfunction putting the mother and child at risk.
It is believed that both morning sickness and HG are connected to human chorionic gonadotropin hCG, which is a hormone created during pregnancy by the placenta. Mother's bodies produce large amounts of hCG rapidly during early pregnancy; the levels can continue to rise throughout the pregnancy.
Just like morning sickness, HG includes nausea; the difference is it doesn't go away. The severe vomiting soon leads to dehydration. Sufferers cannot keep any food or fluids down.
HG symptoms always begin within the first six weeks of pregnancy
Vomiting more than three to four times a day
The accompanying continuous nausea often doesn’t go away of appetite
Dizziness and light-headedness
The accompanying fatigue lasts for weeks or months
The mother experiences low weight gain during pregnancy
Frequently women with HG experience a complete loss of appetite
She may not be able to work or perform normal daily activities
As well as the suffering of the woman herself and concern for the developing baby, the condition causes stress to her loved ones as well.
Doctors look for various indicators, including low blood pressure, fast pulse rate and signs of dehydration. They will discuss symptoms and medical history with their patient and might request blood and urine samples as part of their tests. Ultrasound is included in some cases to check the pregnancy and see if twins are present.
Hyperemesis gravidarum can quickly and easily become a medical emergency; some women do require hospitalisation for intravenous fluids, electrolytes and glucose with bed rest. In some cases, a fluid diet may be fed via a gastric feeding tube, including steroids, insulin, antihistamines, ACTH, multi-vitamins, and even low doses of phenothiazines antipsychotic drugs. Moreover, the condition is frequently resistant to these conventional treatments and alternatives are often recommended by healthcare professionals, such as acupressure and taking ginger root, both with some good degrees of success. Medical Hypnosis is another treatment that, although considered alternative, is proving to be a powerful tool against HG in tests.
One of the world’s most famous mum’s The Duchess of Cambridge, suffered HG and turned to hypnotherapy to help her during her pregnancies and first used it after being admitted to hospital with HG. She would feel nausea as soon as she looked at food. The hypnotherapy enabled her to remove negative thoughts about food and to enjoy her pregnancy.
Modern Clinical Thinking:
Modern clinical thinking is changing, and increasingly, many doctors agree that the "alternative" method of hypnotherapy can bring relief equivalent to or even superior to drug administrations. In a report Medical Hypnoses for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Eric P. Simon, PhD, and Jennifer Schwartz, MD said:
‘In the new mind-body era with an emphasis on mind-body connectedness, we now understand that “alternative” treatments can bring about symptomatic relief that is often equivalent, if not superior to, drug outcomes ... With hypnosis one can evoke physiologic changes that were once thought beyond voluntary control.’ (Simon E P, Schwartz J, 2000).
They also raised concern that, typically, medical hypnotherapy for HG is only initiated after drug treatments have failed. A significant advantage of hypnotherapy is that there are no side effects. They agree that hypnotherapy should be initiated as part of first-line treatment for HG sufferers rather than as a second-line treatment after the failure of other treatments.
Fortunately, attitudes are changing due to the established effectiveness of hypnotherapy as a treatment for HG. As a non-invasive treatment, they also believe that hypnotherapy during morning sickness could be used as a preventative to full-blown HG.
Simon, Eric & Schwartz, J. (2000). Medical hypnosis for hyperemesis gravidarum. Birth (Berkeley, Calif.). 26. 248-54.
Additional Resources Used:
Unnamed, hCG levels (2020), pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/hcg-levels, referred to in https://www.healthline.com/health/hyperemesis-gravidarum where information was learnt.