Hyperemesis Gravidarum is NOT Morning Sicknessby Jodie Keith
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a term often met with hushed murmurings of ‘isn’t that what Kate Middleton had?’ but for those unlucky enough to experience it, it can be summarised in one word: HELL.
I was unfortunate enough to join the Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) club during my pregnancy and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. I’m passionate about telling the cold, hard truth about HG, so let's dive in.
First of all, I’d like to clear something up: Hyperemesis Gravidarum is NOT the same as morning sickness. Most women experience some kind of morning sickness during pregnancy, varying from slight nausea to a few bouts of vomiting per day, most usually in the morning. Morning sickness like this can be eased – eat some dry crackers first thing in the morning, stick some fresh ginger in your tea, nibble on some crushed ice. It’s unpleasant, sure, but manageable: you can still, for the most part, go about your usual day to day life. Hyperemesis Gravidarum, however? Mate, your head isn’t leaving that toilet bowl all day, and there can be serious medical consequences. BIG difference.
HG hit me full throttle pretty much as soon as I got that positive pregnancy test a few days before my period was due. I went from being full of joy that our efforts to conceive had been successful one day, too exhausted, empty, and best friends with my toilet bowl the next… and it just didn’t stop. I remember keeping a tally to keep me sane, and I was easily hitting 30-50 bouts of physical vomiting every single day. I was spending more time being sick than I was not.
The problem with vomiting that frequently is that you get into a vicious cycle – you’re drained, exhausted and starving, so you force yourself to nibble on a bit of toast, but that sends your stomach haywire and your body spends the next few hours vomiting up the entirety of your stomach - stomach acids and all. Even when your stomach is empty, it’s cramping, painful, and forcing you to dry wretch. Beautiful.
I tried to work through my HG and carry on life as normal. I tried my best to go to work but was spending more time crying over a shared toilet bowl and vomiting into the bin under my desk than I was actually getting any work done. I was having to pull over on the drive to and from work and be sick in a bag on my lap. It was impossible.
If you’re thinking ‘well, go to the doctor then!’: I did seek medical help. I sat for hours in a walk-in clinic, and after strenuously fighting my case as the doctor didn’t seem to truly understand the severity of my sickness, I was finally prescribed an anti-sickness drug. It was ‘the same anti-sickness drug as chemotherapy patients’, according to the prescribing doctor, but in all honesty – it wasn’t that useful. Sure, it stopped nausea, but it basically knocked me out. I’d take the tablet, sleep for 4 hours, wake up being sick, take the tablet and start again. It wasn’t healthy, and I personally had concerns about taking drugs whilst pregnant, anyway. In hindsight, I should probably have gone back to the doctor and tried a different drug, as it sometimes takes a while to find the perfect drug for each individual body, but I was exhausted and quite frankly I didn’t have the energy to keep telling everyone how bad it was. It felt like no one actually truly believed me.
Unfortunately, I ended up how most Hyperemesis Gravidarum suffers do: in hospital. The extreme vomiting caused dehydration, so I ended up hooked up to a drip in A&E to rehydrate my body to ensure my unborn baby didn’t suffer. I was lucky that I only had to do this once – so many HG sufferers end up needing hospitalisation for dehydration more frequently.
There is light at the end of the tunnel in my story, though – my HG eased off by the third trimester, and I was eventually able to eat my weight in pregnancy cravings to make up for the weight loss from the first few months. Did someone say Nando’s?
Anyway, if you’re reading this and suffering from HG yourself – you’re a fucking hero. My only advice: stay at home, rest as much as you can, and drink sips of water off a teaspoon. It will eventually pass and you WILL get through it, no matter how awful it seems at the time. Plus, you get the prize of pushing a watermelon out your vag at the end of it. Yay!
Also, if someone tells you to try ginger, punch them in the face*.
*Don’t actually do this…but you get the gist.