I found out I was pregnant with Sun on a Sunday. I went to my GP the next day and by then was feeling very nauseous. The GP assured me that it was common to experience morning sickness and that I should try eating ginger biscuits. The next day I began vomiting and couldn’t stop. I went back to my surgery and my GP sent me to buy travel sickness acupressure bands, nevermind that I could barely walk I was so weak and couldn’t keep down any fluids. By the next morning I felt as if I was drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to move apart from to retch. I got to A&E dangerously dehydrated and wishing I wasn’t pregnant then hating myself for thinking such thoughts.
Approximately 1% of pregnant women suffer from a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and today is the first HG World Awareness Day. More research is needed to find out why this condition occurs and what can be done to help women suffering from it. We need to talk about HG. For me, the physical effects were devastating – I lost 20% of my body weight within the first 6 weeks of pregnancy, I tore my oesophagus through constant violent vomitting, I wore away the enamel on my teeth from the acidic bile that passed through my mouth so regularly – but worse than the physical were the emotional effects.
I was made to feel as if I was being a drama queen and not trying hard enough. People constantly questioned me on whether I had tried this or that remedy for morning sickness because they had found it worked for them. Dry crackers, salty foods, ginger biscuits, stout, the list goes on and on.
When I agreed to take medication because it was either that or let HG kill me and my baby through dehydration I was made to feel incredibly guilty that I would be harming my unborn child. I was made to feel it was selfish of me to take a medication that had risks associated with it. Couldn’t I just nibble on ice cubes and get by?
No. HG is not morning sickness. It is extreme. I couldn’t keep down a sip of water for longer than about ten minutes. The sight of the fridge had me heaving. My husband had to eat all his meals outside the house because I would retch and vomit if he ate inside. Even if I was two rooms away with the door closed I could smell food or drink and it would make sick. I tried freezing numerous different mineral waters but it was futile. Everything had a smell and a taste that was repulsive to me.
My work were understanding at first but after several weeks away they soon tired of sympathy and I could tell they thought I was putting it on. My friends were sympathetic at first but if you say no enough times to meeting up people soon forget you. The loneliness and guilt was unbearable and depression began to lurk in the corners of my HG prison taunting and teasing me.
After nearly a dozen hospitalisations and eight medications I found a drug that worked. Well, it kept me from being hospitalised again. I was still sick a couple of times a day but I could keep water down and small bites of food over a 24 hour period. I was still plagued with intense nausea making it near impossible to do anything other than lie very still.
By then I was 12 weeks pregnant and had been told countless times that things would ease around the 12 week mark so I had pinned all my hopes on that. I thought that by 13 or 14 weeks pregnant I would be able to stop taking medication and I would start blossoming and blooming. Er, no, 12 weeks came and went, 16 weeks came and went, 20 weeks, 24 weeks, 30 weeks. By that point I was resigned to the fact it was hanging around until the bitter end. I was one of the very few who have it up until and during labour. I was still being sick an hour or two after giving birth to Sun.
The morning after having Sun I woke for the first time in 8 months with no nausea. I didn’t have to reach for a sick bowl. It was amazing. The nightmare was over. While other new mothers were complaining about the lack of sleep and the all-consuming nature of newborns I was jumping for joy and eating everything in sight. I was the only one in my mother’s group who gained weight after the birth rather than losing it.
I swore I would never go through it again but just as the memory of childbirth fades so too does the memory of HG and I thought with careful planning and maybe some luck I would be okay to try for another baby. Maybe I wouldn’t have HG again, it was possible. My desire to have another baby outweighed my fear of HG and I took the plunge.
The second time round I went in fighting. I saw several GPs until I found one who would prescribe what is normally a final resort medication for HG due to the risks associated with taking it and the cost. He agreed to write me a prescription when I was 10 days past ovulation and pregnant, when the vomiting began. I was a lot stronger mentally having endured HG once so I was quick to give anyone a piece of my mind who would suggest to me that ginger biscuits might help. Fuck you and your ginger biscuits too. This is HG. It’s extreme and it kills.
I don’t often get angry and swear and rant but this is one topic very close to my heart. So on this first HG World Awareness Day I wanted to tell my story and offer my support to anyone who might be suffering from HG – I feel for you. It’s not your fault you are suffering from this.
I don’t want another woman to suffer the guilt and depression I suffered because of people’s ignorance and judgement. I want more to be done to find better treatments for this condition. So if you know someone who has HG please offer them your sympathy and not your morning sickness rememedies. They will have tried everything, believe me, they are not bringing this on themselves. Just agree with them that it’s cruel and unfair and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.
If you want to read more about HG you can visit the following sites: