TODAY   |  December 04, 2012

What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

With Duchess Kate’s pregnancy announcement came the news that she is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum – an acute form of morning sickness. Dr. Rebecca Brightman and Maggie Kelly, a mom who also suffered from the same condition, explain what the duchess might be experiencing.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> is tempered a bit because of the diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum , a doctor and a mother who suffered with the form of hyperemesis gravidarum through her pregnancies. for those just tuning in and learning about this rather rare condition, doctor, can you tell us what it's all about.

>> hyperemesis gravidarum really pertains to the extreme situation of the nausea and vomiting that many women experience or term morning sickness in pregnancy, so it really only can affect approximately 2% of women who are in fact pregnant.

>> but it's something that's far more than what people might think of getting a little sick in the morning and then going on with your day.

>> absolutely. in these women we see severe dehydration, there are electrolyte imbalances and start spilling ketones in the urine which is evidence of the fact that they are breaking down their own fats to use as nutrition, many symptoms of dehydration, feeling lightheaded and justlousy.

>> back in earlier times, author charles ott bronte is suspected to have died of hyperemesis gravidarum but it's no longer let anything, correct in.

>> if someone doesn't seek attention it could be life-threatening, but there are ways to treat it and as obstetricians and gynecologists we treat it very effectively.

>> you've experienced this and this got progressively worse with each pregnancy.

>> with my first son i was able to manage it with medication and after a period of time i was able to go back to work and by 24 weeks, i was feeling not normal but pretty okay. with my second child i had to go to the hospital a couple of times for iv fluids , and then by the third one, you know, i was on an iv at home for a period of time of two weeks, and -- and receiving a constant pump of anti-nausea medication.

>> i know a lot of women who have experienced this, and the fact that we all call it morning sickness in any form kind of irks them because it does not reflect what they go through.

>> not morning sickness in the sense that people think of it. it's kind of like morning sickness on steroid. it's a pervasive, debilitating, intense nausea that you have from the minute you wake up until the minute you go to bed at night.

>> and even the simple act of getting up out of bed can make you feel that nausea.

>> it's with you all the time. especially with my third one i spent weeks basically laying on the couch. i mean, i couldn't do anything else, and i needed a lot of medical help really just to keep myself hydrated and, you know, keep the baby and me healthy.

>> do i have this right, in your final pregnancy it lasted pretty much the entire nine months?

>> it did. it wasn't that level of intensity the whole time. for me after the 20, 24-week period the intensity kind of drops off, i say i can regain society at that point, you know, i can get up and go about my day. i still needed medication and still had to be very careful about what i ate.

>> thinking optimistically, doctor, do most people go through this for about 14 weeks or so.

>> typically the symptoms abate by 16 to 20 weeks and the rarest of circumstances, 5% of people with severehyperemesis can have it remain throughout their pregnancy.