A mother who vomited so often while she was pregnant lost all of her teeth.
Louise Cooper, 26, was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) – a condition that affects an estimated 1-3% of pregnant women.
When she became pregnant for the first time in April 2017, she began to vomit so frequently that her teeth started falling out.
Six months after her first child, Zachary, now five, was born in November 2017, she had to have all of her remaining teeth removed because they were so damaged.
Cooper has since had two more children and suffered from HG each time. Despite the harrowing experience, she has embraced life without teeth, often going out without her dentures.
Read more: Greg Rutherford's pregnant fiancée Susie Verrill shares gruelling reality of hyperemesis gravidarum - Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read
“The damage was caused by the acid from vomiting,” Cooper explains. “I lost my first tooth at around 16 weeks’ pregnant. It was just out of nowhere. I was told that my teeth would need to be removed as they were so damaged.
“It was very traumatic, I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy. It is unpleasant. It is emotionally and physically draining.”
What is hyperemesis gravidarum?
Sickness is common during the first trimester or first half of pregnancy, and happens to around 80% of pregnant women.
However, only 1-3% of women experience excessive nausea and vomiting that can see them be sick multiple times a day. The condition is so extreme, sufferers are often unable to keep food or drink down.
A recent survey of 5,000 pregnant women with HG by the BBC, charity Pregnancy Sickness Support and researchers at King's College London found that 52.1% of women surveyed said that they considered terminating their pregnancy due to HG. Some 4.9% said they did terminate a wanted pregnancy because of the severity of HG.
It also found that 25.5% of the women surveyed occasionally thought about suicide, while while 6.6% of women regularly considered it.
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Hyperemesis gravidarum symptoms
The main symptom of HG is prolonged and severe nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms can include dehydration due to lack of fluid and weight loss due to lack of food.
The NHS says that, unlike regular pregnancy sickness, HG doesn’t necessarily improve by 16 to 20 weeks and may even last the entire pregnancy.
Hyperemesis gravidarum causes
While it is not known what causes HG or why only some women suffer from it, the NHS says there is some evidence that links it to the hormonal changes in a woman’s body that occur during pregnancy.
The health service also says that it can be hereditary, and you are more likely to get it if your mother has had it.
A recent study found that the main cause behind pregnancy sickness is excess levels of a hormone called GDF15. The researchers believe that this discovery, which was made in 2023, could lead to new treatments for HG.
Treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum
The NHS recommends some medicines that are safe to use in the first trimester of pregnancy that can help improve symptoms of HG, including anti-sickness drugs, steroids, or a combination of both. It’s important to visit your GP first so that they can recommend the right medication for you.
Read more: Pregnant women may be driven to abortions by extreme morning sickness, new survey reveals - Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read
The Princess of Wales famously suffered from HG in the early stages of each of her three pregnancies. In 2020 she revealed that she used hypnobirthing techniques, mindfulness and meditation to help her cope with it.
“I saw the power of it really, the meditation and the deep breathing and things like that, that they teach you in hypnobirthing, when I was really sick, and actually I realised that this was something I could take control of, I suppose, during labour. It was hugely powerful,” Kate told the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast.
Where to get help with hyperemesis gravidarum
The charity Pregnancy Sickness Support is a brilliant resource for those struggling with the condition - as well as their partners.
The charity has a helpline - 024 7638 2020 - you can call for advice and support in addition to plenty of advice on their website.
If you're unable to talk - as many women with HG are - you can WhatsApp the team.
Watch: Mum dropped two dress sizes while pregnant due to extreme morning sickness which saw her vomit up to 30 times a day