A preganant woman lies on a bed and holds her belly.
What is hyperemesis gravidarum hyperemesis gravidarum, and how it’s different than garden-variety morning sickness? (For Spectrum Health Beat)

If you follow the media, especially all things royal, you probably realize it was just announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, are expecting their third child this spring.

While exciting news, unfortunately, Duchess Kate is again struggling with hyperemesis gravidarum.

This brings up questions about what exactly this condition is, and how it’s different than garden-variety morning sickness.

So here are the 5 things you need to know:

1. Morning sickness is common.

Most people are familiar with the term morning sickness. Though, from personal experience, it should be called all-day sickness.

For women who experience morning sickness, it typically begins at week 6 and ends weeks 12-16. Statistics show that 50-90 percent of women experience nausea in the beginning of pregnancy, with many also experiencing vomiting.

Morning sickness is a normal part of pregnancy for many, in fact, it’s the most common issue of the first half of pregnancy. One study said 47 percent of moms-to-be miss work because of morning sickness.

Symptoms vary, but can include: nausea, gagging, retching, dry heaving, vomiting and odor or food aversion.

2. Hyperemesis gravidarum is not common.

This serious condition has symptoms that go well beyond normal morning sickness.

Moms with hyperemesis have severe nausea and vomiting, lose significant weight and experience electrolyte imbalances.

Mild cases may be treated at home, but severe cases require hospitalization as Duchess Kate did for her pregnancy with Prince George. One article I read said she vomited up to 50 times daily.

3. Differences between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum abound.

  • While morning sickness includes nausea and some vomiting, hyperemesis includes nausea with severe vomiting.
  • With morning sickness you can typically keep some food down, while with hyperemesis the mom-to-be is unable to keep food down.
  • With hyperemesis, the vomiting causes severe dehydration.
  • Hyperemesis can also include symptoms of fainting, confusion, headaches, less urine output, extreme fatigue, rapid heart rate, loss of skin elasticity, malnutrition and more than 5 percent pre-pregnant weight-loss or 10 pounds.
  • Hyperemesis can also cause emotional stress as mom can’t eat and often is too sick to work or take care of other children. Anxiety about her health as well as baby’s health can be a concern. Depression is more common as mom’s whole life is changed by how she’s feeling.

4. There are many hyperemesis triggers.

You don't have to be a royal to experience morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. A perinatal education nurse shares the ins and outs of both. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
You don’t have to be a British royal to experience morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. A perinatal education nurse shares the ins and outs of both. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

A survival guide I looked at for hyperemesis suggests there are triggers that can cause nausea and vomiting, so avoid:

  • loud noises
  • smells (avoid the kitchen if possible)
  • pressure on your belly
  • an empty stomach
  • car rides
  • standing or sitting upright
  • vitamins, especially those with iron

5. Tackle hyperemesis with these tips.

While there are no known causes for hyperemesis, there are ways to handle it. Most of these help with morning sickness, also.

  • Eat small meals more often.
  • Consume ginger candies, tea or capsules.
  • Have a few crackers in the morning before getting out of bed.
  • Take your prenatal vitamins before bedtime.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, use flavorings in water if necessary.
  • Eat whenever you feel you can and what sounds good.
  • Get plenty of rest and nap if possible.
  • Try Sea-Bands on your wrists.
  • Avoid being too warm, as this can make nausea worse.
  • Take one day at a time.
  • Ask for help.
  • Find someone to drive you to your appointments.
  • Call your OB provider with any concerns.