Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Pregnancy is supposed to be one of the most wonderful times of your life. All the books and people say when you get over that horrible period of morning sickness, you come out the other side glowing, radiant, and happy. But what if you don’t? what if the vomiting doesn’t stop, you look like the living dead, and you are seriously considering changing your name to Marvin the robot because you feel that depressed. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) literally means “excessive vomiting in pregnancy”. It is debilitating and crippling on so many levels.

There is no known cause for HG but it is believed a number of interrelated factors during pregnancy cause it. What is known  is that  the following factors contribute to nausea and vomiting during pregnancy; hormonal changes, dehydration, nutritional deficiencies, and the overall stress on the body’s chemistry and functioning. Also genetics seems to play a role.

I had HG during my pregnancy and I thought I would share my story.

I woke up one Monday in July 2009 and it was a morning like every other morning, only I couldn’t finish a slice of toast. This was highly unusual so I called in sick to work and then made an appointment to see the Doctor.

While in with the Doctor I learned I was probably pregnant. The wee test was borderline so I was scheduled in to have a blood test, and had an appointment to come back later that week. As the day progressed I started to feel worse and by the evening I had started vomiting. By Wednesday I was vomiting continuously. I returned to the Doctor and was told without a doubt I was pregnant. The Doctor also told me this was perfectly normal, morning sickness could be a little rough, but if I rode it out by week 12 I would be fine.

By Friday though I had moved into the bathroom. I was throwing up constantly, unable to keep even water down. But the Doctor again said this was ok, perfectly normal, I just had wait it out, it would pass. So I kept forcing water and food down my throat and promptly vomiting it up. I had given up on the bed, because the minute I laid down I wanted to throw up again. I was laying on a blanket in the bathroom next to the toilet. I figured I may as well be right next to the toilet if I was going to end up there anyway. The only time I moved was to crawl into the shower and sit under the water till I threw up.

On Saturday we went to my parents house. We were looking after their cat while they were on holidays. I wanted to have a bath, and see if that would help. I also wanted to see if a different bed would help as I had become convinced my bed was making me sick (sleep deprivation does funny things to you). As we were leaving we drove past the hospital and I told my partner to go in, something was wrong, really wrong. I thought this could not be good for the baby if I could not even keep water down.

I was admitted to emergency that night and spent six hours hooked up to saline drips and being injected with anti nausea. Finally a Doctor saw me and informed me I had hyperemesis gravidarum. I was given some anti nausea to take and a prescription for more and was sent home.

So now I just had to make it to the magical 12 week mark. I was still so nauseous even with the drugs. Periodic vomiting was still common. I spent most of my time prone on the couch. Unable to move. I even slept on the couch for a week (then we purchased an air bed which was bliss). Every anti nausea technique known I tried; travel sickness bracelets, ginger, and peppermint tea and it all failed to help. In fact all it did do was make me never want to touch ginger ever again, that stuff  BURNS on its way back up.

The only hope was reaching the magical 12 week mark. But week 12 came and went and I was still very ill. In fact the vomiting continuously started again. This time we didn’t wait, we went to the GP who admitted me to the hospital straight away. A few days later I was allowed to go home.

But the vomiting never stopped. While on anti nausea I threw up at least once a day, with the occasional day of respite. completely random, no particular cause. In that first week of being sick I had lost ten kilograms. I started avoiding places where I didn’t know where there was a toilet (or a clean toilet). I had to finish work at seven months as I just could not work any more. Eventually my Ob took me off the Zofran and I continued to vomit every day all the way up into labour.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is not well understood by people who haven’t experienced it. They can’t understand why you can’t do what you did previously. Or why your sickness isn’t like what is portrayed in movies; a little bit of vomiting but your basically fine. You will encounter a lot of doubt and disbelief. People will think you’re putting it on. That if you just suck it up you will be fine.

Most of my friends and family were very understanding, but work in particular was hard for me. My work colleagues just could not understand why I couldn’t work to the same capacity I did before I was pregnant. They placed a lot of pressure on me and made me feel guilty and miserable over not being able to pull my weight. In fact on my last day before I went on leave my boss told me she was glad I was going on leave as she was sick of picking up my slack. While I understand it is a business and she needed a staff member who could work to full capacity, there was just no support or accommodation for my illness, considering I was a long-term employee who had never been sick previously and this was temporary. Eventually the only option to me was to go on my leave three months earlier then I was supposed too.

One of the hardest things to deal with was the feeling that I had failed. Everyone, including myself expected me to be enjoying my pregnancy and think it a wonderful thing. But I couldn’t enjoy it. I was so miserable and looking back now probably borderline depressed. I found the whole thing extremely traumatic. The fear of vomiting was always there, and as there was no particular triggers I never knew when it was going to happen.

I have since found a wonderful website called Hyperemesis Education & Research (HER). Their page has lots of information and the latest research on Hyperemsis. Check out their Survival tips for some ideas on how to get through HG. If you think you are suffering Hyperemsis gravidarum make sure you seek medical help straight away.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rainbowg
    Dec 15, 2010 @ 11:27:54

    No idea it was that serious for you. How horrible. It was bad enough having only slight nausea each morning for the first 12 weeks – I count myself very lucky. Would have made the pregnancy experience very traumatic and one you would be very hesitant of revisiting I imagine. It must have been a relief as well as a very joyous occasion when James was born.


    • caspette
      Dec 17, 2010 @ 08:08:01

      Yes and Yes. I am glad James is in my life and he is wonderful, but the getting there part was very hard and there were times I did think “Is this worth it?”.

      I guess the best way to discribe it is like having food poisoning, all the time.


  2. pallasathena2007
    Dec 17, 2010 @ 03:36:49

    As a fellow HGer, I completely understand how it feels. It’s awful.


    • caspette
      Dec 17, 2010 @ 08:05:22

      I sometimes feel guilty for complaining about it. I know other women get it much worse then me. Evntually I will like to post more about HG when I better understand it myself. By the way had a glance over your blog and its packed with heaps of good info!


  3. Literary Feline
    Jan 01, 2011 @ 10:23:09

    I am so sorry you had to go through that and didn’t get the support you deserved from your work colleagues. I can’t even imagine. I had never heard of HG before.

    You made it through though–and so did James. Amazingly so. You can use it against him when he’s older and misbehaves. You are probably just glad it’s behind you.


  4. pallasathena2007
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 04:48:08

    I know what you mean about the guilt. That guilt kept me from asking for the help that I really needed last time. Since then, I’ve been working really hard to let go of that guilt. No idea how it will play out next time, but I’ve got an aggressive doctor who is one of the top in this area.


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