My Experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum
When I found out I was pregnant, I had a certain picture in my mind of how things would go. Maternity clothes shopping, nursery decorating with my husband, crazy cravings, and shopping for our baby are all things I thought would be fun and I looked forward to them. I hadn’t given morning sickness much thought. I figured it would happen for the first trimester and then everything would be fine, but that’s not what happened. My first prenatal visit was around my eighth week and by the time that date arrived, I had been throwing up 15-20 times a day for about two weeks. My doctor immediately admitted me to the hospital after my FIRST prenatal appointment where I received IV fluids and medications to try and get the vomiting under control.
The remainder of my pregnancy looked very different than I had imagined. My daily routine was to go to my full-time job (which luckily was in a hospital, so I was close to my doctor when I needed her), and after work I would report to the MEU (maternity emergency unit) and receive IV fluids to keep myself hydrated, then go home to my sweet husband who helped me shower and take care of our home. I felt like a total zombie and spent more time in the bathroom than any other part of our house. I was also beginning to LOOK like a zombie because of the burst capillaries under my eyes from so much vomiting — beautiful imagery, I know. I lost about 19 pounds in my first trimester. All of this, combined with other normal discomforts of pregnancy, made me feel like I was going to lose my sanity before our baby arrived.
It became clear to me quickly that not many of my friends and family had any idea what hyperemesis was or how seriously debilitating it was — besides joking that I had the same illness as the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. I heard many comments like, “Are you really throwing up that much?” or “All pregnant women feel sick sometimes, you get used to it.” Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a serious illness that occurs in 2-3% of pregnancies and causes extreme nausea and excessive vomiting. It can lead to severe dehydration, organ failure, and death in extreme cases. It is extremely hard to keep down any foods or liquids. It is also hard to maintain normal activities of daily living while being so weak and dehydrated. My nausea and vomiting finally stopped the day my daughter was born. Since then, I have made it my mission to educate others about this illness and to reach out and be a support person to other mothers who have experienced this.
Tips for Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum
I’ve compiled a few tips that helped me stay sane during my pregnancy that could be helpful to any mom with HG, or morning sickness in general:
- Never let your stomach be empty. Empty stomach = more nausea. I found it helpful to keep saltine crackers on my night stand and eat a few before I even sat up.
- Eat cold foods. Cold foods don’t smell as strongly as hot foods and help tone down the nausea.
- Sip on drinks. I was tempted to chug everything because I was so thirsty, but sipping on super cold water helped me keep it down.
- Eat what you crave! Sometimes I would have a random craving for pizza or a cheeseburger. I found it pretty easy to keep down whatever I was craving.
- Communicate with your healthcare provider. If your medication isn’t helping anymore, then let your doctor know!
For those of you powering through HG right now, know that you aren’t alone and you will make it through this illness and enjoy motherhood — I promise! It’s perfectly acceptable to sleep as much as you need to in order to take care of yourself. And if you need a friend to sympathize or listen, you’ve got one in me. Feel free to reach out on social media if you need a listening ear.
To read more about hyperemesis gravidarum, please check out this article featuring Dr. Richard Davis, a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist at UAB.