Back last year Danni interviewed three mums who have suffered with Hyperemesis Gravidarum during their pregnancies. Each slightly different but ultimately they were very poorly.
Lucy (@what_luce_does), mum to Miicah and Aria and a little boy.
Sophia (@mumlife_afterhg), first time mum to baby Teddy who has been born since this interview took place.
Rebecca (@thecoastalmummy), who runs a blog called The Coastal Mummy which is a multi-award-winning parenting and lifestyle blog.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about this, I really appreciate it. Can you briefly explain your symptoms of HG and when they started? At what point did you realise you had more than morning sickness?
Lucy: My symptoms with all 3 of my pregnancies started at around 6 weeks, vomiting, tiredness, headaches, with all 3 pregnancies I have been admitted to hospital at 7 weeks for iv fluids and medication to help control the vomiting. It was at this point I realised it wasn’t just your normal morning sickness. With both my girls I never actually felt sick, it was just vomiting 20 plus times a day, in between I would feel absolutely fine. This time I have had hideous nausea along with vomiting which feels like the worst hangover of your life.
Sophia: My HG started around week 5 of my pregnancy and it started extremely suddenly, one day I was fine the next thing I knew, I was bed-bound, vomiting violently. I knew quite soon that this was not normal morning sickness and nausea. My symptoms were absolutely devastating and got worse every single day, I couldn’t drink anything not even sips, I couldn’t eat anything, if I tried to eat or drink it would instantly come back up. I would vomit up to 50 times a day, all of the contents of my stomach, bile, acid and eventually started throwing up blood, I genuinely thought I was dying. I couldn’t stand any sort of smell everything made me nauseous and sick. I was extremely exhausted, my throat, teeth and gums started to deteriorate, I was dizzy, extremely dehydrated, I lost 14 pounds in just over two weeks and got down to just over 7 stone. I couldn’t even shower, brush my teeth, stand up without help. This went on for 3 weeks before my first admission to hospital for medication and IV fluids.
Rebecca: I started to feel sick at around 8 weeks pregnant but it wasn’t until 10 weeks that I actually started to be sick. It was around 14 weeks pregnant that I experienced my first hospital admission, that is when I knew it was more than morning sickness.
I understand that the symptoms of HG can be debilitating, and in many cases the woman ends up being hospitalised. Were you/Have you been hospitalised during your experience of HG? What treatments are available for HG and what were you offered? Did it work? Have you tried any home-remedies and were they successful?
Lucy: I have been hospitalized with all 3 pregnancies, this time it’s just been once at 7 weeks but with my girls it was twice each. Every time I have been admitted I have been treated like HG is actually very serious, which it is, compared to various trips to a GP who have told me to just deal with the sickness as its morning sickness. Each hospital trip involved IV fluids and anti-sickness meds via IV too/injection. The anti-sickness medication has worked to an extent, with the girls I was on cyclizine and omeprazole from 7 weeks until the day they were born, it controlled the vomiting to around 5-10 times a day, lessening as the pregnancy progressed, this time I have actually stopped taking cyclizine at 28 weeks and haven’t been sick for nearly a month which is amazing.
Sophia: I was hospitalised 6 times in the day unit for IV fluids and medication and hospitalised 4 times overnight for extra IV fluids and medication. During these stays I was pretty disoriented and not really with it, I remember being so dizzy and weak. To get treatment/medication from your GP I found very difficult and found they didn’t know much about HG and how to treat it, in hospital, it was easier. My GP firstly prescribed me Cyclizine which did nothing to help so I began my own research and went back and asked for Ondansetron (which she was reluctant to give, but she did) combined with Proclorperazine and Cyclizine. This took the edge off for a few days then failed to do anything (at this point I was 16 weeks pregnant) and still so unwell. I was back in hospital and given steroids (which is the last and final option and form of treatment they can give you) firstly through a drip and then in tablet form. For 4 weeks I was taking 18 tablets a day in order to be able to even have a sip of water and keep it down for longer than 5 minutes.
Rebecca: I have been hospitalised twice since 10 weeks pregnant so in just over 14 weeks. Once was for 24 hours and once was only for the day. I have tried 4 different medications and it took weeks to finally find one that worked for me. I tried every home remedy and nothing worked for me.
Were you aware of HG before experiencing it yourself? If you worked whilst pregnant, how did HG affect this? (were you able to continue working, reduced hours etc). Was your place of employment supportive?
Lucy: I was not aware of HG at all until I experienced it. I was employed whilst pregnant with my eldest and was made to feel so bad by my employer that I actually ended up leaving the job. I was sick many times during my working day and my employer, rather than trying to sympathise just used various tactics to make me so uncomfortable at work that I had to leave. This included telling the entire workforce about my pregnancy at 8 weeks despite me asking them not to, shouting through the office that I was vomiting, refusing to allow me to stay in my normal office and making me have a desk on a landing to be close to the toilet. The list goes on. it was horrible.
Sophia: I was not aware of HG before being diagnosed with it and found most healthcare professionals didn’t know much about it also. I have done a lot of research myself into this condition in order to get certain medications and forms of treatments. I did work before HG, I am a primary school special support teacher for behavioural and emotional problems. And since being pregnant I have only been at work for 5 of those weeks. I sadly haven’t been able to work at all most of my pregnancy, and have been signed off by my doctor for all of this time. I am extremely lucky my work has been very understanding and supportive of me during this time especially with a condition most people don’t know anything about and think is just morning sickness.
Rebecca: Luckily my husband is the main earner in the house and I am a stay at home mum and blogger so I didn’t have to worry about work and HG but I can imagine it must be really hard to juggle work and HG.
Are you able to put it into words how your experience of HG made/makes you feel? Did it/has it affected your mental health during pregnancy?
Lucy: HG has made me question my decision to have another baby on more than one occasion, at its peak, I would cry daily telling my other half that I couldn’t carry on. It definitely affected my mental health, this time has been the hardest as I have my 2 girls to look after, trying to hide vomiting multiple times a day from 2 toddlers is very difficult, anyone with toddlers knows they follow you everywhere and need to know what you are doing constantly.
Sophia: From never having a medical condition or never really being unwell, HG has completely taken over my life. It has been the worst thing I have ever gone through and not even trying to sound dramatic I thought I was dying. Not only has it been extremely hard for me, but it has also been awful for my partner and family. It has affected every single aspect of my life, I haven’t been able to care for myself at all, go to work, see friends, see family or leave the house for anything other than doctor/hospital appointments. My mental health has definitely been affected because of HG, I have never been so low and depressed in my life, the feelings of isolation, guilt, nothing or no one can help you, not knowing when the HG will ease or end. I was very worried at one point I wouldn’t have a bond with my baby as I just looked at it as something destroying me. I was told by my midwife that my condition was not severe enough for prenatal counselling, which I found shocking.
Rebecca: It had made me feel like I have failed at being pregnant and I have felt so bad due to not being able to eat and the effects that could have on the baby. After weeks of struggling, I was put back on anti-depressants by my consultant because I was struggling so much with how HG has made me feel.
Once you have suffered with HG during pregnancy, is it likely this will occur again in further pregnancies? This may seem like a silly question, but does it ease after birth?
Lucy: In my personal experience yes. Every pregnancy has been a HG one, the only difference being that this time I have nausea as well as vomiting. With the girls as soon as they were born the symptoms vanished instantly, I’m hoping for the same this time.
Sophia: It is very likely if you have HG in a pregnancy, you will have it again in future pregnancies. No one knows why or how this happens, I personally will never take that risk, and this will be my only pregnancy (sadly).
Rebecca: I didn’t experience it with my first 2 pregnancies and I am currently pregnant with my 3rd so this my first experiencing HG. I have heard that it eases after birth though.
What advice would you give other women experiencing HG? What was your saviour during your experience? (was there an item of food or drink that helped, any relaxation techniques, bed rest etc)
Lucy: Don’t just take your doctor’s word for it that its ‘just morning sickness’, ask for a second, third or fourth opinion. My GP this time told me to think positive, he said there is a part of the brain next that will stop the vomiting as it was all in my head!! Needless to say, I swapped GP practices within hours and got a wonderful GP who believed me right away and has been amazing ever since. Do not feel guilty if you need to take medication, there is no way I would have coped without. Fizzy water has been and still is the only thing I can drink, was able to drink in all my pregnancies.
Sophia: Although there is no cure or much really that can help much during a HG pregnancy, my advice would be do not leave it until your very unwell to seek help from healthcare professionals and medication, the earlier you start medication the better. Do not leave it too late to get iv fluids for dehydration, this is super important. Make sure those closest around you have access to understanding HG and what you’re going through, it can be a very hard and confusing time for them also. REST, rest is so important even on the days you feel ‘ok’ do not tackle all your jobs, when your tired HG is 10x worse. Seek out others who are also facing HG and this has helped me massively, more than anything really! You can share advice and tips, vent and just know you are not alone in this.
Rebecca: I would say listen to your body, there has been more than one occasion where I have tried to carry on and it made me feel so ill. I have found drinking only water also helps slightly but other than that it is finding out what works best for you.