Hyperemesis is awful and debilitating. I retched and heaved, stomach acid painfully burning my nose and throat for what felt like the millionth time that day. The room was spinning and my head was throbbing from the dehydration that was slowly consuming my body. I didn’t even have the energy to wipe my mouth or lift my head from the toilet bowl after hours/days of being sick. I could barely see, tears silently rolling down my face willing and praying for the agony to be over. I’m not religious but believe me I prayed. Silently and desperately, begging for this torture to end. I was readmitted to hospital later that day for the sweet relief of a fiendishly strong concoction of anti-emetic medicine and bag after bag of rehydration fluids. It only ever lasted a few hours though. Once I was sent home, the horrendously familiar nausea would start to creep over me and the retching would begin once again.
I was diagnosed with a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and I have never felt so ill in my life. I suffered acutely with it for the first 26 weeks of my pregnancy and although it didn’t feel like it at the time, I was one of the lucky ones. The doctors were able to get my Hyperemesis under some sort of control and for the remainder of my pregnancy I only threw up a handful of times a day instead of dozens. Some women suffer with Hyperemesis for their entire pregnancy. The thought of which makes me die a little inside.
Hyperemesis is a lonely, isolating condition and seriously misunderstood. However, the nature of Hyperemesis is that it is episodic, so in the rare hours that I felt well enough to hold my head up and read, I feverishly scoured the web for miracle cures (there are none) and sought solace in internet forums full of other women who were suffering the same nightmare. So why are people not talking about this more openly? There are many women suffering and being treated for Hyperemesis and yet time and time again I heard of women saying they had been told to “just get on with it” as though it was a possibility to carry on with your normal life. Other misguided comments I had said to me or about me included:
“She just has morning sickness!”
“Oh I know just how you feel, I felt sick for the whole of my first trimester. I wasn’t actually sick though.”
“Have you tried ginger biscuits?”
“You need to eat a little something when you first wake up in the morning. You’re probably just hungry.”
All things that I had said to me, or about me, during my pregnancy. People mean well I’m sure but at the time I just wanted to yell in their face. It felt like nobody understood. Whilst I agree that any level of sickness or nausea is unpleasant, Hyperemesis takes it to a whole new level. If you suffer with Hyperemesis then you cannot keep food nor fluid down and you can quickly become dehydrated, weak and confused. It requires immediate medical attention and is not something you can “just live with.”
So please if you hear of someone with Hyperemesis don’t dismiss this as “morning sickness” because that in no way sums up this debilitating condition. If you are an employer and one of your employees is suffering with Hyperemesis, then there is a brilliant resource over at the Pregnancy Sickness Support website that will explain to you what is going on and how to support them. This is a great website that really helped me through a tough time.
Are you suffering with Hyperemesis? If so the little advice I can give you from my own experience is to:
- Get medical help as early as possible – there are medicines that can help control the vomiting but the earlier you take them, the more chance they have of working. Don’t wait until you are seriously dehydrated to get help.
- Have a look at the vitamins you are taking – for me, the iron content in them made me feel even worse and I had to stop taking them altogether (not that I could keep them down anyway).
- Rest rest rest – even if you suddenly have a better day. HG comes in waves and one of my major triggers was being over tired. Get family and friends to help out as much as possible. If you have young children then just do whatever you can to get through the day. It won’t hurt if Cbeebies is their new best friend for a while.
- Eat whatever you can when you feel up to it and don’t worry about if it’s healthy or not. It doesn’t matter so long as you are getting something in you. I literally survived off nibbling ready salted crisps for weeks.
I now have a beautiful, healthy baby girl and the end result is definitely worth it I promise. You can get through it with support from family / friends and the right treatment from your doctor.
Let me know your experiences with Hyperemesis in the comment box below. I’d love to hear from you