During pregnancy, the vast majority of women experience some degree of morning sickness, particularly during the first trimester. Often characterized by waking up and abruptly running to the bathroom, morning sickness is widely regarded as an unpleasant, yet normal part of pregnancy.
For many women, nausea and vomiting is more than an unpleasant side effect. It’s relentless. If you’re asking yourself “Is my morning sickness normal?” here is helpful information to help you decide whether to consult your provider.
Morning Sickness vs. Hyperemesis Gravidarum
In the majority of cases, nausea and occasional vomiting commonly referred to as morning sickness does not require medical attention. However, some women may experience a severe condition beyond normal morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) which may require medical intervention to prevent serious complications.
While there is a good amount of overlap between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum, there are a few ways to differentiate one from the other.
- Vomiting: With morning sickness, nausea is sometimes accompanied by vomiting. Despite its name, it can occur at any point during the day. In comparison, HG is accompanied by severe, ongoing vomiting which typically occurs multiple times a day.
- Duration: For most women, nausea usually starts before 9 weeks of pregnancy and subsides by the start of the second trimester. HG often does not subside until around 20 weeks and in some cases, lasts the duration of pregnancy until delivery.
- Dehydration: Because that vomiting that occurs with morning sickness is considered infrequent, dehydration isn’t an issue. However, vomiting that occurs with HG is characterized as more intense and frequent, which often causes severe dehydration. Signs that you may be dehydrated include dizziness, muscle cramping, and changes to the frequency, output and/or color of urination.
- Inability to Hold down Food: With morning sickness, you are still able to keep down some of the food that you eat. But HG prevents you from keeping any food down due to the frequency of vomiting.
- Disruption to Daily Activities: If you are experiencing nausea and vomit that makes it difficult to carry out your normal daily activities, it may be a sign of HG.
Signs and Symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum
In addition to the characteristics above, the common signs and symptoms of HG include:
- Severe nausea and vomiting
- Food aversions
- Weight loss of 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight
- Decrease in urination
- Extreme fatigue
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Secondary anxiety/depression
When to Seek Help
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or are concerned whether your morning sickness is considered normal, talk to your physician as soon as possible. Hyperemesis gravidarum is commonly associated with nutritional deficiencies and metabolic imbalances that can affect both the health of the mother and unborn baby. Untreated, it can result in both short-term and long-term complications such as gastric ulcers, malnutrition, esophageal bleeding, preterm delivery, low birth weight and more.
Green Valley OB/GYN represents one of the oldest and most respected medical practices in the Triad. Our physicians have more than 200 years of combined experience in caring for the healthcare needs of women in our community. To schedule an appointment, call (336) 378-1110.