May 15 was Hyperemesis Gravidarum Day. That is something very close to my life since I survived Hyperemesis Gravidarum, twice.
What Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), is a very rare type of sever morning sickness that happens to women who are pregnant. It is so much more than just a little nausea that can be cured by drinking ginger ale and eating a few crackers. It is intense all day and night nausea that never leaves and causes you to vomit many times a day. For many women it lasts until the second trimester, but for some it can last throughout pregnancy up until birth.
My First Time with Hyperemesis Gravidarum
I had HG twice and, if anything, the second time was worse than the first. With my first pregnancy, it hit me like a ton of bricks. One day I was just absorbing the shock of being pregnant unexpectedly, and the next I was unable to control my vomiting and couldn’t eat or drink anything and keep it down. Within two weeks I lost ten pounds. I was so isolated and alone during this time. My husband and I were living in Wyoming, far away from all of my friends and family. My husband worked nights during law school, so I was alone all day while he was sleeping and all night while he was at work.
Wanting it to end was all I could focus on. I didn’t know anyone who had this before, not my grandmother, not my mother, no friends, etc. They say you follow your mom’s pregnancy to some degree, but for me that was completely untrue. My mom and my grandmother all had multiple pregnancies without ever vomiting once. I had never even heard of HG before. It did not help that we lived in a small town where the doctors did not know much about this condition.
So, I suffered for weeks, losing weight, unable to eat more than popsicles and the occasional bread product, and feeling so helpless. Finally, things started to get better. I got on some meds that helped a bit and was able to eat protein again. Fortunately, I was not miserable my entire pregnancy, but I did have bouts of nausea and difficult days throughout.
My Second Time with Hyperemesis Gravidarum
After my first baby, I was positive that we were not going to have another child because I knew that I could not go through the whole HG ordeal again all while trying to care for a toddler. After a while, I started to do some minimal research and even had healthcare providers who told me that I might not have HG again the second time. When I found out I was pregnant with our second, I started out hopeful, but immediately started waking up feeling a little nausea, which I wrote off as normal pregnancy symptoms. But by six weeks on the dot, I was too sick to eat and couldn’t get out of bed…the vomiting began.
It started all over again, the helplessness, the loneliness, the weight loss. I got on meds right away, but they did nothing. I was so worried and scared about who would care for my son as I could not hardly stand up long enough to shower, let alone keep up with a very active toddler. There was also work that both my husband and I could not neglect. I was so fortunate to have friends and family watch my son for the whole time, as I was unable to. Without them, I truly do not think I could have made it through this second time.
How You Can Help Others With Hyperemesis Gravidarum
People do not have a large understanding of what Hyperemesis Gravidarum is and what it does to a person. There is not only a physical toll but a mental one as well. If you know anyone who has HG, the best thing you can do is not offer them food. People always want to do this when they know someone is unwell, but that is the least helpful thing for people who are constantly nauseous and vomiting. Offer to watch their other kids, run errands, or just sit with them. The best thing that happened to me the second time was having friends come and just listen to me and let me know that I was not alone.
If you have HG or know someone who has HG, help spread the word about what it is. Understanding that this is so much more serious than just morning sickness is the key to finding more effective ways to help women who are suffering.