Digestive health

Unique care helped Cecelia manage hyperemesis gravidarum

Many women experience morning sickness at some point during their pregnancy, but for some, their illness is much more severe.

This was the case for Cecelia, a mother of eight, who suffers from hyperemesis gravidarum, a rare condition during pregnancy that is characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss and electrolyte imbalance.

Unlike morning sickness, the symptoms are severe and do not subside. This puts the mother and her unborn child at risk for dehydration, malnutrition, low birth weight, preterm birth and even miscarriage.

Cecelia's condition persisted and worsened with each pregnancy. When she was pregnant with her son Ciaran, she needed more effective and aggressive treatment.

She sought the guidance and help of UW Health gastroenterologist Dr. Sumona Saha, who operates a clinic that specializes in caring for pregnant women with gastrointestinal problems. Cecelia thinks the level of care she received was second to none.

As an advocate for women who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, Cecelia explains, "I speak to women across the country with this condition and many become so ill during pregnancy that they lose their jobs, are unable to function at home and are at risk for medical complications and miscarriage."

Cecelia is thankful that Dr. Saha's care was compassionate, comprehensive and collaborative. As a busy mom and fulltime UW law professor, she was grateful that "Dr. Saha worked in collaboration with my obstetrician to make sure I could function at home and continue to teach despite my illness."

Hyperemesis gravidarum can lead to dehydration and malnutrition. Patients like Cecelia become so ill that they are deprived of necessary fluids and calories that both they and their growing babies need. During her pregnancy, Cecelia had to seek IV hydration, first at the emergency room, and then at home through a peripherally-inserted central catheter (PICC line), which allowed for intravenous access for a longer period of time.

Later in her pregnancy, she also required IV nutritional support. She received care in the hospital, but with Dr. Saha's support was then able to manage both her hydration and nutritional needs at home through her PICC line.

Cecelia and her family are grateful for Ciaran's healthy birth. Her condition ended almost instantly after giving birth, which allowed her to resume normal drinking and eating.

"Dr. Saha's program is rare and unique. I wish more women had access to the standard of care I received," says Cecelia. "It enabled my husband and me to have the family we always dreamed of."