Hyperemesis gravidarum: Suburban woman feels Kate Middleton's pain

December 4, 2012 3:09:43 PM PST
As the congratulations pour in on news Prince William's wife Kate is pregnant, so too is the sympathy.

Many women who have suffered from acute morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum, say it is horrible.

For anyone who has had hyperemesis gravidarum, the term morning sickness is way off the mark. A west suburban woman says she knows what the princess is going through. Her pregnancy was devastating when it should have been one of the happiest times in her life.

"Seven, eight weeks out, it was just like something hit you," said Mila Barraza. "Vomiting continuously...no energy, very, very sick all the time."

Barraza hates to think back on the misery of her second pregnancy. She hardly fits the profile of a woman who might suffer hyperemesis gravidarum.

Barraza's first pregnancy was normal, and that time she had a girl. But three years later, when she became pregnant with her son Benji, her morning sickness got worse and worse.

"I was hospitalized once to get rehydrated, because i was losing a lot of weight, but it was the whole experience, not a pleasant one," Barraza said. "When I heard about this happening to the princess, I was like, Oh, I feel for her."

What makes this so different than the typical nausea or vomiting of morning sickness is the severity of symptoms:

Vomiting, constantly, all day long.

Weight loss and then possibly dehydration.

Hospitalization is needed in severe cases to restore fluids and nutrients through an IV.

Anti-nausea drugs can also be given, and in the worst cases, some women end up with a feeding tube.

"This is a whole different animal," said Dr. Arin Ford, OB-GYN at Rush-Copley Medical Center. "The symptoms tend to become worse after nine weeks, and then in most patients we see them start to come on anywhere from15-16 weeks. There are some unlucky women where it will persist into the second, even third trimester."

Dr. Ford says, while the condition is unusual, it actually happens in pregnancy more than women realize, about one out of every 100 to 200 pregnancies.

No one is sure why this happens, but it is more common in younger women with a first pregnancy, when there is more than one fetus or when the baby is a girl.

What should be reassuring to expectant moms is, while this is miserable to go through, the baby tends to be fine.

"What we often do is serial ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy to make sure the baby is growing, but generally the baby is not affected by this disease," said Dr. Ford.

Barraza had to wear a device 24/7 that pumped anti-nausea medication into her body. By her seventh month, she finally felt better. Her son was born healthy.

"I think that is what you have to focus on," said Barraza. "This isn't an illness like cancer. It has a happy ending and a wonderful, wonderful result at the end."

Doctors say it is best to get this pregnancy complication under control early on. Women who are having non-stop, debilitating nausea and vomiting should not suffer in silence and are urged to seek a physician's care.

Barraza works in human resources at Rush-Copley.


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