“So the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant again and suffering Hyperemesis Gravidarum … and the media keeps calling it extreme morning sickness!
I want people to get their facts straight, it’s so much more serious than people realise!
For me, Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is physically being unable to eat and drink. It’s losing so much weight and having no energy to stand, shower or be a mother. HG is gagging and vomiting violently when trying to make your daughter a sandwich because the smell just sets you off.
HG is crying constantly because of extreme, unrelenting nausea 24/7 … your body is in starvation mode, everything hurts and you know people think you ‘just have bad morning sickness’ …
HG causes isolation, anxiety and depression along with the physical symptoms. HG is taking drugs used to treat nausea and vomiting in chemo patients and they don’t work … even at $10 a tablet!
HG is constantly feeling guilty and living in fear that your baby isn’t thriving because you haven’t eaten in weeks besides a tube giving you fluids.
HG is constantly downplayed and it’s really sad that there isn’t more recognition and understanding.
HG is being so dehydrated the doctors can’t find a vein to run your IV. HG is your husband telling you there will be no more babies because he can’t stand to see you so sick and in so much pain.
My hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancies
Pregnancy 1: HG lasted from weeks 5-13 (then slowly improved until week 17 when all symptoms resolved). Barely any food or fluids from weeks 5-13, constant, severe and unrelenting nausea and vomiting. Lost 10 per cent of my body weight. Was bedridden and extremely upset, I feared for my unborn child’s life. I was given Maxalon once in hospital and one packet of 10 ondansetron wafers around 8 weeks. No further advice, treatment or medication was given.
I wasn’t even told the name of the condition, I just saw the midwife write it down in my notes and I thought it was the proper medical term for morning sickness. I just suffered through in bed alone, thinking I was normal. I never thought it would happen that severely again.
I had a beautiful healthy daughter Ella weighing 3.1kgs and 49cms long. My husband was hesitant to have another child, I managed to convince him after three years.
Pregnancy 2: The extreme, constant and unrelenting nausea and vomiting started when I was five weeks pregnant. Much more severe than the first time. I could not believe this was happening again. I had to quit my job. My first hospital admission was at six weeks, I was given IV fluids and Maxalon, which caused me to have an extreme anxiety attack and I was suicidal. I wanted to die, I was literally looking around my hospital room for something sharp, so I could open up my veins and end it all. I’d already had HG once and couldn’t imagine living through it again, this time with a three-year-old to take of and it was much more severe.
At seven weeks, I saw the head midwife of the local hospital and was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum – she told me it was written in my file from my previous pregnancy. I was stunned at the lack of diagnosis and treatment with my first child.
I was then given basic information and also a prescription for anti-nausea tablets and instructions to go to the women’s clinic for IV fluids and IV medication when I needed them. This was a 30-minute drive and I could not even walk, so someone would have to drive me and take care of my daughter. It was just so horrible being in the car with all the motion.
The IV fluids were good though and I could eat a little afterwards. I lost so much weight (I was only 52kgs to begin with) that my ribs and pelvic bones jutted out rather than my belly, I felt like a skeleton. I didn’t start gaining weight back until I was five months pregnant.
In the first three months I was hospitalised about once or twice a fortnight then released after the IV had gone through. I was feeling better, but then went back home to my bed to repeat the pattern of not being able to eat or drink, constant retching, vomiting foam, bile, sometimes even blood, and crying all the time because the aches and pains from dehydration, starvation and sore stomach muscles was unrelenting and agonising. The worst time I was so dehydrated, I had excruciating, severe pain in my back and legs, a killer migraine and was seeing black spots in front of my eyes. I walked down the hallway to get my partner to help me and collapsed in a heap.
I had ketonuria which is when your body is in starvation mode and uses its own fat and muscle stores for energy. Lots of fluids and medication that day! The OBGYN listened to me while I broke down to her in tears because I was just so frustrated and upset, she held my hand and told me that it was horrible for her to watch and know that HG is the second most common reason for hospital admission during pregnancy, behind preterm labour.
So why has nobody heard about it? Because they are not taught. My friend is in her final year of studying midwifery and HG is only covered in two paragraphs of text in three years of study. Yet it is the second leading cause of hospital admissions for pregnant women – I don’t get it!
I hated asking for help, I know now that I should have asked for much more. I had to get my mum to look after me and my daughter while my husband worked. I could not sit up and play with my little girl, I barely got out of bed most days and I missed out on so much time with her. I still suffer extreme guilt about this.
At 13 weeks I started to eat potatoes, bread and sliced cheese, I was still on the wafers (they’re $10 per wafer, 3 a day…it adds up quickly!) but finally managed to keep something down. The nausea never left though, I would still vomit several times a day and brushing my teeth was a nightmare.
I spoke to the mental health midwife weekly throughout my pregnancy but I never let on how isolated and sad I was. I just could not let anyone know my true feelings because I thought I should be grateful to be blessed enough to carry a child. I truly wish I had reached out for more help, I probably would have saved myself a lot of heartache.
At the same time, the medical system barely knew a thing about it and I’ve since done my own research and found there are many other treatment options that could have been offered to me. So I feel incredibly let down by them.
At 38 weeks my beautiful daughter Ruby came into the world at 2.9kgs and 46cms long, totally healthy. I have no idea how she survived, she amazes me to this day.
She is now almost two now and I still suffer occasional nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain and despite a few trips to hospital, a heap of tests and countless trips to my GP, they still do not know what causes it.
In my HG support group there are many other survivors with similar health issues after going through HG, I’m certain that it is connected, some kind of after effect. I still see a psychologist to help me deal with what I went through, the feelings of guilt and isolation have never left me and I suffer from depression and anxiety.
Before hyperemesis gravidarum I was bubbly, energetic, social and always positive. I just want to be that person again.”
– a big thanks to Ella and Ruby’s mum for sharing her story. All the best xx
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