It takes a certain amount of guts (sorry) to face down hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) a third time, as the Duchess of Cambridge announced she’s doing. The condition, which affects 1 percent of pregnant woman, can make you vomit more than 40 times a day. 10 percent of HG sufferers will choose to end their pregnancies, according to research. As an HG sufferer during my pregnancy, I remember how isolating and frightening it was. For many of my fellow HG mothers, it’s shaped their feelings on family size: they’re “one and done” because of the terror a second pregnancy would bring.
Here is some help if you’re suffering with HG or “nausea and vomiting in pregnancy” (NVP).
Know when it’s not morning sickness
For me this came at the moment I started vomiting blood and acid and was being sick around 13 times a day. If it’s your first pregnancy and you haven’t had morning sickness before, it’s all too easy to kid yourself that you’re being weak. If your sickness is unmanageable – you can’t walk far, you can’t work, you can’t leave the house – you need extra help. Don’t let the “you’re not ill, you’re pregnant” brigade into your head. If you felt this ill without being pregnant, you’d doubtless be at the doctor ASAP. You would also take time off work. Do this, even if it means months away. It is hard to disguise the first trimester of pregnancy when you’re suffering HG. If it’s easier to tell people what’s happening, tell them.
Push for the right treatment
Healthcare professionals can be dismissive of HG and many sufferers report unhelpful treatment and delays getting the correct drugs. If your drugs aren’t working, ask about your options until you find what’s right for you. Mild cases of HG like mine meant two hospital admissions, several bags of fluids each time, and taking an antiemetic for five months of my eight-month pregnancy. Severe cases of HG mean months in hospital on a drip of antiemetics used for chemotherapy patients. There isn’t a one size fits all fix.
Take care of your mental health and find the right support network
You will go through weeks, maybe months, where leaving the bathroom seems Herculean. HG is incredibly isolating. Ask friends to come to you but not mind if you flake. You may tell yourself you’re becoming a rubbish partner. Remind yourself over and over that this can only last nine months and that it’s not your fault or choice. Don’t feel guilty for leaning on your partner. You will need flexibility and understanding at work. If your manager can’t or won’t offer that, speak to Human Resources about your options for long-term sick leave.
Go online and find HG and NVP forums. This is your village. They, like you, are puking around the clock and are here to hold your virtual hand. Some of these women are now my closest mum friends. There are also HG veterans on the groups with helpful advice. Be aware the mental weight of HG won’t disappear with the baby’s birth. Your feelings on everything from food to your family may have changed post-pregnancy. Tell your healthcare providers how you’re feeling and if you need counseling or medication.
Have your purse HG ready
If you feel able to leave the house you will need:
- your anti-emetics
- a lot of gel lined sick bags (in addition to vomiting, you’re going to drool like a bloodhound)
- mouthwash or mints
- baby wipes
- a clean scent that doesn’t make you nauseous
- VapoRub to mask the smell of smokers
- food and sweat on public transport
- a change of clothes
- cold facial spray
- whatever snacks you can face (which in my case was Rice Krispie Squares)
Enjoy your post-baby meal
The first bite of toast that goes down and doesn’t threaten to reappear immediately is heaven.