Most women expect to experience nausea and vomiting in pregnancy which is commonly called morning sickness even though it occurs any time of day or night. It is often a welcome sign for women who have been trying for a baby and many women see it as a rite of passage through pregnancy. Therefore it is not often that women complain or ask for treatment for "normal" pregnancy sickness.
If you think your symptoms are severe enough to be looking for help and support then you probably have moderate-severe pregnancy sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. Some signs that you might need treatment and help with your symptoms are:
If you are vomiting more than five times a day for more than five days
If you are not eating and drinking normally because of the nausea and/or vomiting
If you are struggling to your normal day-to-day activities like working and looking after your family
If you are loosing a lot of weight, such as more than 5% of your pre-pregnancy weight
If you are getting dehydrated
If you fit any of these criteria and self-help techniques like eating little and often and resting haven't worked then you should seek help.
Where to get help
General Practitioner (GP)
Your GP will be able to tell you if your symptoms are those of normal nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (NVP) or HG. Often you may need to to give a urine sample and undergo a physical examination to test for signs of dehydration.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms your GP may prescribe anti-nausea medication. These medicines are safe to use during pregnancy.
If you are showing signs of dehydration, your GP may refer you to the Emergency Department.
Your GP can also support you during your pregnancy as part of the Combined Care Antenatal Scheme.
Emergency Department (ED)
Depending on where in the country you live, you can attend the ED in your local hospital or you can attend the ED in a specialist Maternity Hospital such as in Dublin or Cork.
The midwives and doctors will assess you and determine whether you need IV fluids.
You can attend the ED with a referral letter from your GP (this is free.) You can also attend the ED without a GP letter; standard hospital charges will apply.
Midwives can give advice over the phone, for example in the Emergency Department of the Maternity Hospital. If you are taking part in Midwife led care, such as the Domino scheme, your midwife can assess your symptoms.
Your Obstetrician can support you during your pregnancy.
Things to consider:
Some people begin suffering symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum at 5-6 weeks pregnant, before they have had their initial Booking Visit in the Maternity Hospital (usually at 12-14 weeks.) For this reason, your first port of call for help or diagnosis of HG may be from your GP or ED, before you have had any contact with midwives and obstetricians.
People suffering from hyperemesis may need to tell their employers sooner than they had planned, especially if they need time off work.
If your symptoms are causing you to feel low, do not hesitate to contact your GP or midwife for support.
Hyperemesis Ireland can provide ongoing support throughout your pregnancy and other organisations like Cuidiu (Irish Childbirth Trust) can also support you during your pregnancy.
You can contact us for information about hyperemesis friendly services in your area or for peer support from our volunteers across Ireland.