Hyperemesis gravidarum: "morning sickness on steroids"

Hyperemesis gravidarum: "morning sickness on steroids"

The Duchess of Cambridge left a London hospital Thursday after being treated for acute morning sickness related to her pregnancy.  It is called "hyperemesis gravidarum" and affects about one in every 300 pregnant women.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a rare condition that many describe as morning sickness on steroids or just out of control vomiting.  KPLC's sister station, WECT-TV in Wilmington, North Carolina recently talked with one woman who has had the condition twice.

"A complete intolerance of anything by mouth, either fluid or food," said Dr. G. Daniel Robison, of the Glen Meade Center for Women's Health.

Wilmington resident Melissa Burdett suffered the same condition when she was pregnant. She said she became worried when she started vomiting a lot more than usual.

"I was vomiting probably 20 times a day, maybe more," said Burdett. "I thought my baby was going to die. I thought I was going to die."

Burdett had no idea being pregnant was going to be so frightening.

"I thought it was going to be a joyful thing. I wanted to know what to expect," she explained. "You know a couple morning sicknesses, you get through it by being able to go out and enjoy your belly and people asking how far along and stuff. Instead, I was in hospitals for weeks at a time."

The condition can lead to dehydration or worse if left untreated.

"I just basically sat in my bed most of the time and would get sick," said Burdett. "I lost so much weight."

HG goes away after the first trimester for most women, but not Burdett.

"Only about 20% or less will continue to have nausea and vomiting after week 22 or so," said Robison.

But Burdett saw no relief. She was admitted into the hospital and had to get nutrition and fluids thru IVs.

"Basically we get treated like a chemo patient," said Burdett.

"These ladies can't tolerate anything orally and so they are literally fed either through a tube that goes in through their nose and down through their intestine or they're fed through their veins," said Robison.

Burdett's first daughter Skyelan is 3 years old now. She was born three weeks early, but she was otherwise healthy.

Even though she knew she'd have the same problems, Burdett got pregnant again and Rosilyn was born. Now that her daughters are older, Burdett is sharing her story so other woman know how to tell when morning sickness gets out of control.

"I want to help other women out, because I feel that a lot of women don't get the support they need from friends and family. They don't get it if they've never been through it," said Burdett.

She is part of a support group called the Her Foundation. The group is trying to press lawmakers and the medical community to do more for HG sufferers.

Burdett's biggest frustration was getting doctors in New Jersey, where she lived prior to Wilmington, to realize her condition had gone beyond normal morning sickness. Robison said good communication with your physician is really important and keeping a journal might help.

"Even just keeping like a record," he said. "This is how many times I'm getting sick during the day. This is how many calories I'm able to take in. This is how much fluid I'm able to take in daily."

May 15th was the first annual Hyperemesis Gravidarum World Awareness Day.

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