Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). A term that became a frequent feature in my vocabulary, having been my companion for the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy.
Characterised by severe and persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, HG is most certainly not the same thing as regular morning sickness. It affects 1% of the pregnant population, and it’s a very debilitating condition that could risk the wellbeing of both mum/parent and baby. Due to the frequent vomiting, those experiencing HG often end up being severely dehydrated, with vitamin and mineral deficiency, and will experience a loss of at least 5% of their original body weight. Because of this, it is not uncommon to be hospitalised with HG. It is also very common to have to be on a combination of anti-sickness medication, sometimes all through the entire pregnancy, to try to keep the vomiting and nausea under control.
Because it’s so debilitating and limiting, those with HG will often spend long periods of time being house (or even bed) bound, and this – together with the symptoms of HG – can lead to poor mental health, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. In fact, it’s a condition so extreme, that a survey of 5,000 women with HG has shown that 52.1% of respondents considered termination.
The usual tricks and home remedies that help regular morning sickness don’t work for HG (trust me, I’ve tried them all), and it’s so very important that validating and understanding support from family and friends, healthcare providers and other professionals is made available.
For my part, this is not what I thought the start of my pregnancy would end up being. For nearly 15 weeks I was pretty much bed bound, trying the best I could to stay positive and nourished. Even so, I ended up being admitted to hospital in two different occasions (eight nights in total) for IV fluids and intramuscular medication, and I paid another three visits to the maternity triage. I lost 10% of my original body weight (which I later thankfully recovered by about 20 weeks), and I temporarily damaged my oesophagus from all the vomiting.
Things started feeling a little bit more manageable around 15 weeks, though I was still nauseous and vomiting. The difference was I could start doing some basic things around the house like doing the dishes, making the bed, etc. By 18 weeks I was thankfully able to eat most things again, and I was even able to cook again (something that brings me a lot of joy), but I was still on a lot of medication.
My body weakened in the weeks (months) I was in bed, and when I was finally able to resume my morning walks, my stamina had been greatly affected and I could only manage little walks at a time.
At around 20 weeks I had managed to reduce some of my medication, though that did bring some of the more intense nausea back. Let’s see what the next few weeks bring! With HG there’s a chance the nausea will never go away, and in fact that the more intense vomiting and nausea will return in the third trimester. Time will tell what HG has in store for me.
Despite this challenging ride at the beginning of my pregnancy, I’m in awe and in gratitude of my body that, despite all the physical challenges, keeps going and keeps growing my baby without me having to say or do anything. I’m grateful that I seem to be over the worst for now when I know some pregnant folk endure the severity of it all through their pregnancies. I’m also immensely grateful for the support I’ve been given from my husband and our community of family and friends.
HG is BRUTAL. Support is EVERYTHING.
If you’re suffering with HG, seek support both medical, and emotional. Listen to your gut and what you need and don’t be afraid to ask for it. People in your network will surely be happy to help, and there will be other opportunities in the future for you to reciprocate.
If you are going through HG, my heart and love go out to you. It is so, so very challenging. You really do have to live one day at a time. Sometimes even an hour at a time!
If you know someone with HG, consider reaching out and checking in, offering a listening ear or company if they’re up for it. But for the love of everything that is sacred, please do NOT suggest ginger!