©Arlene R. Taylor PhD www.arlenetaylor.org
You may remember news headlines announcing that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, had to be hospitalized because of hyperemesis gravidarum. Her willingness to talk about this in public shone a light on a complication of pregnancy that occurs more frequently than one might think. Many women experience hyperemesis gravidarum, (“morning sickness”) while pregnant, especially during the first trimester. Fortunately, the Duchess recovered and went on to complete a successful pregnancy.
Researchers identified a high prevalence of severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy—hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)—among relatives of HG cases in the study population. Because the incidence of HG is most commonly reported to be 0.5 percent, this study provides strong but preliminary evidence for a genetic component to extreme nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2660884/#R3
While many women experience some “morning sickness” during pregnancy, not all suffer with HG. The complication triggered by this condition, of course, is dehydration, which occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in and your brain and body lack enough water to carry out normal and necessary functions. Every day you lose fluid through elimination of urine and stool and through breathing. Each time you exhale you lose moisture. (If you wear glasses, you may have noticed moisture when you “breathe” on the glasses to clean them.)
In a country where there is plenty of safe drinking water, what can contribute to dehydration?
- Failure to drink enough fluids daily
- Illness with nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Working in hot conditions, especially in high humidity
- Over exercising with excessive sweating
- Aging with a decrease in thirst sensation
- Severe morning sickness, including HG
As you know, blood brings micronutrients to the brain and carries waste products away. About 55 percent of blood is composed of plasma, which is mostly water: 92 percent by volume. The exact percentages at any given time may vary by arterial versus venous blood and by whether the person is dehydrated. Since the brain depends heavily on blood flow, dehydration can cause the brain to function less effectively. Studies have shown that just a 1 percent level of dehydration can result in a 5 percent decrease in cognitive function. In the case of severe morning sickness, no wonder the woman may feel as if her brain has left on an extended vacation.
What might decreased cognitive function look like? She might have difficulty solving math problems (e.g., making change in the grocery store) or have trouble focusing on her work or even experience fuzzy thinking. Dr. Dave Carpenter, author of Change Your Water, Change Your Life, has listed a dozen of the more common symptoms of chronic dehydration including constipation, high blood pressure, acid-alkaline imbalance, weight gain, and so on .
According to Dr. Corinne Allen, founder of the Advanced Learning and Development Institute, at least 75 percent of the brain is composed of water, with the neurons or thinking cells likely composed of 85 percent water. Because the brain has no way to store water, it needs a continuous supply to produce hormones and neurotransmitters. And it’s not just the brain. Water is the main component of the human body. Here are some estimates:
- Brain and body = ¾ water
- Overall body = at least 2/3 water
- Muscles = ¾ water
- Bones = 1/5 water
Symptoms of dehydration can range from dry mouth, dry skin, sense of thirst, sleepiness, and fatigue, to headache, decreased urine output, and constipation, to name just a few. Most of the time, dehydration can be reversed by drinking enough fluids to replace what was lost. Severe dehydration, however, can be life-threatening, and may require immediate medical treatment. If HG runs in your family system—or simply decides to appear on its own—contact your healthcare professional in a timely manner. Treatment is available for this very severe form of morning sickness, including intravenous fluids to help rehydrate mother and fetus.
After all, the life you nourish—and maybe even save—is more than your own!