Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Pregnancy Test

Signs of Early Pregnancy

This blog is written by Jessica Kupres, BSN, RN, CLC, CBE a Postpartum Doula with Gold Coast.

As you lie in bed thinking about your day and putting your brain to rest, you might think about the great presentation you gave today. Did you put the clothes in the dryer? When was your last period?…. When was my last period? Was it over a month ago? Am I pregnant?!

The best indicator of pregnancy is taking a pregnancy test. Today’s home pregnancy tests can be over 99% accurate, and many can be taken even before you miss your period. You can even get them at the dollar store. But what are the symptoms you might experience that mean you could be pregnant?

Remember that everyone is different, so you might have one, none, all, or a handful of symptoms. Probably the most common first indicator of pregnancy is a missed period. Every month your body prepares for pregnancy by thickening the lining of the uterus, and when no fertilized egg implants into the uterus, the additional lining sheds, and you have your period. This can be a little tricky, though, because 15-25 % of women will have implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding is when you have a small amount of bleeding or spotting as the fertilized egg (zygote) implants or anchors itself into the uterine lining. For all three of my pregnancies, I took and had a positive at-home pregnancy test at the start of my “period” which was actually implantation bleeding, and not a period at all.

But let’s say you’re lying in bed, don’t have a pregnancy test at home, and may or may not be spotting. What other symptoms might imply you are pregnant? As soon as your body recognizes you are pregnant, it starts going into overdrive and your hormones quickly shift to prepare for the pregnancy. You might be surprised how quickly your breasts change. They might feel tender or swollen, and you might notice your nipple and areola, which is the area around the nipple, become darker. Surprisingly, this is already in preparation for childbirth, when the darkened nipple and areola become a “bullseye” for baby to easily see and help him or her latch on for breastfeeding!

You might also noticed an increased need to urinate. You might think this is something that comes with a large uterus pushing on your bladder, which it does later in pregnancy, but at this point, your new pregnancy hormones and increased blood supply cause your kidneys to filter more fluid and increase the need to urinate.

You might also notice an increased sense of smell, or changes in food preferences. All of the sudden you may crave a lot of potato chips, and the smell and taste of chicken may send you running to the bathroom, even though chicken was a favorite food before. For me, I have always been a chocoholic, but for the first 14 weeks of my first pregnancy, the thought of chocolate was repulsive to me. And along with food and smell aversions, you may have nausea and/or vomiting. This may or may not be directly linked to food or smells, though. Many women find they get nauseated, or have morning sickness, if they get too hungry in the first trimester. That’s why it was originally associated with the morning… you are probably hungry from not eating all night, so might have morning sickness. A helpful trick might be to have some crackers by the bed, and eat a cracker or two before you move or get out of bed. This may help ease this hunger related morning sickness. Unfortunately for many, though, morning sickness doesn’t just stick to the morning. Some may experience it all day.

In early pregnancy your body is working really hard to get everything set for a healthy pregnancy, and as such, you may feel an overwhelming fatigue. You may also experience increased irrationality, mood changes, headaches, dizziness, or faintness. When this happens, it’s best to sit or even better, lie down, if you are not feeling well. Your body temperature may also increase slightly in early pregnancy, though not high enough to be considered a fever. Some of the less talked about symptoms of early pregnancy may be increased gas, constipation, and a change in vaginal discharge.

Finally, you might notice some insomnia in early pregnancy. Your mind may be racing with all of the questions and excitement pregnancy brings, making it hard to fall asleep. So as you lie there trying to fall asleep, you now have a good list of symptoms you may experience in early pregnancy. And if you are still wondering if you are pregnant, it is probably a good idea to take a home pregnancy test and call your health care provider if it is positive!

Photo: First Response Pregnancy Test

 

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

This post was written by Lauren Utter, a ProDoula trained Birth and Postpartum Doula with Gold Coast Doulas.

Finding out you are pregnant can bring an array of emotions – planned pregnancy or not. Maybe you’re excited because you have been waiting for this day. Maybe you are surprised because a baby wasn’t on your radar. Maybe you’re fearful – of what your pregnancy will be like, how you will look, if the baby is going to be okay, or how you’ll feel.

All of these feelings are normal. Being pregnant causes your body to change. Not just a growing belly, but new hormones, cravings, thoughts, and illnesses. 70-80% of women suffer from morning sickness. At least 60,000 cases of extreme morning sickness, also known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), are reported (the number of cases is actually higher as many are treated at home). Perhaps you wonder if this is how all pregnant women feel or is it just you? Or maybe you question your ability to handle nausea and pain. Do you feel as though others minimize how you are actually feeling- giving you tips that you have relentlessly tried?

Morning sickness is difficult to deal with; it’s exhausting and frustrating, but there are many differences between HG and morning sickness. Women with HG lose 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight. Morning sickness doesn’t typically interfere with your ability to eat or drink, whereas HG often causes dehydration from the inability to consume food or drinks. Morning sickness is most common during the first trimester, while HG lasts longer – sometimes through the whole pregnancy. A woman with HG is more likely to need medical care to combat symptoms.

HG is often described as debilitating, making everyday activities like working, walking, cooking, eating, or caring for older children hard to do. Not only are women having difficulties eating and drinking, but taking their prenatal vitamins is often difficult, too, which results in a lack of proper nutrition. Because of severe dehydration and insufficient nutrients, headaches, dizziness, some fainting, and decreased urination can present as greater symptoms of HG.

On top of all the physical signs of HG, secondary depression and anxiety may also be present. There are potential complications that arise when HG is present. We talked about malnutrition and dehydration, but some others include neurological disorders, gastrointestinal damage, hypoglycemia, acute renal failure, and coagulopathy (excessive bleeding and bruising). Fortunately, with effective treatment these complications can be managed or even avoided completely.

While there is no cure for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, there is a variety of treatments including medications and vitamins, therapies (nutritional, physical, infusion), bed rest, alternative medicine, chiropractic care, massages, and more. Not all women and cases respond to treatments in the same way. Caregivers typically believe early intervention, even prevention, is most effective.

Medical providers work with each woman to discuss which treatments work best for them. Common medications offered to women suffering from HG are antihistamines, antireflux, and metoclopramide. Because HG can be traumatic and highly stressful, 20% of mothers experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). Early intervention proves to be effective, and your OB/GYN, primary care doctor, or a mental health specialist are fantastic resources for mothers experiencing symptoms of any mood disorder. Along with medical professionals there are many forms of support and resources. There are several Facebook groups of women who are suffering or have suffered from HG. This is a great way to feel supported by knowing you are not alone.

The website Hyperemesis.org is equipped with resources, facts, and blogs from other sufferers and their organization, HelpHer, are leaders in research for HG. The HER Foundation puts on events throughout each year for women and their families to come together.

Another great support system is hiring a doula. Doulas offer support through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Through pregnancy we can be there for bed rest support, informational, and emotional support. We provide you with evidence-based resources, and factual information. With this information, women suffering from HG can self-advocate for proper testing and treatment that best suits their pregnancy journey. During the postpartum time, not only do doulas help with infant and family care, but doulas are trained to notice signs of PMADs and will provide you resources that can assist you through recovery.

Doulas want to see you be successful, confident, comfortable, and healthy. I know I can’t be the only one who pushes aside her feelings, physical and emotional, and says “Oh, I’m fine” or “It’s nothing.” Our bodies are designed to “tell” us when something is wrong. Here is a tip: start logging your symptoms, from a single headache to daily nausea and vomiting. This will help your medical provider reach answers. Trust your body and trust your intuition, strive for testing that you believe is necessary, and find your people.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels