Reading the news that Kate Middleton is suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum made me feel for her, as a fellow HG sufferer I can relate more than others with her on this issue. A part of me is also happy that this terrifying and often life threatening illness will finally get the attention it deserves so that other women can detect it as early as possible and not just dismissed as ‘bad morning sickness’. Let me tell you, HG is not morning sickness. It’s a terrifying illness that seizes women in the early stages of pregnancy and doesn’t relent until you feel your body may simply just give up all together. I didn’t even know I was pregnant when I began dealing with the rapid and alarming symptoms of HG. At one point, unbeknownst to me, I was two months pregnant and vomiting up to 40 times a day and all through the night. This wasn’t just a day or two, it went on for weeks in a row and was unrelenting.
Most days I just lay in bed with a plastic bucket next to me, throwing up clear bile as there was literally nothing in my stomach left to come up. I couldn’t eat at all, except for gnawing on a few cream crackers now and again, and water was a no no too, leaving me severely dehydrated. My whole body ached and I had terrible pain in my chest from the constant convulsions meaning that I couldn’t even move to get up without it being agony. I went to my doctor who, not thinking I could be pregnant due to my polycystic ovaries, told me it was an issue with my lungs and put me on antiemtic drugs to stop the vomiting. Thankfully, these turned out to be safe for pregnant women when a few weeks later I found out I was in fact pregnant, but they did nothing at all to stop the sickness.
At a time when I should have been relaxed and enjoying the pregnancy, looking forward to my new arrival, all I could do was lie in the dark wishing the pain would stop. It took my losing over two stone for the hospital to finally diagnose me with hyperemesis. I was painfully thin as I literally hadn’t eaten for three months, and the press, not knowing I was pregnant, were calling me anorexic and coming up with the usual bogus ‘sources’ claiming I was ‘picking at salads and surviving on milkshakes’. Quite ironic as the idea of actually being able to keep down even a milkshake seemed like a distant fantasy at that point! I was given painkillers, i/v fluids and was told to rest, but I was furious with the diagnosis coming so late as, by then, the hyperemesis had started to wear off and I was eating again and getting my strength back.
The hospital had only considered that I may have it after I googled my symptoms myself and thankfully found the Pregnancy Sickness Support website, one of the few of its kind on the internet offering advice and war stories about HG. The hospital had, up until then, just dismissed my claims and obvious symptoms as mere morning sickness, a fact that enraged my husband and left me worried about my own survival and that of my unborn baby. In sheer desperation I printed out my internet research to show a nurse that the symptoms matched my severe weightloss, dehydration and debilitating nausea and I was finally diagnosed.
One in every 50 pregnant women suffer from HG and it can lead to serious issues and even death if not treated early. Thankfully Kate seems to be getting all the help she needs at the right time. For me, the nightmare ended around month four, leaving me free to enjoy the remaining four months of my pregnancy but I was so sad that the early part of being pregnant was something I couldn’t enjoy like the other mothers at the NCT class. Once I started attending classes the other expectant mums shared their stories about all the fun they had had stuffing themselves with various strange cravings and merrily shopping for push chairs and doing pregnancy yoga, when I had spent that time dangerously ill in a darkened room, vomiting into a bucket. It felt like I only had four months to come to terms with being a mother and to prepare for the baby’s arrival, his birth, everything. It was all rushed due to this horrendous illness taking over my whole life. Thankfully the rest of my pregnancy was blissful and Astala was born a healthy 7lb and is now a chubby, smiley, endlessly cuddly bundle of joy who has reached every milestone on time so far and has never been ill (bar a runny nose now and again).
Now pregnant again with my second little boy, I have never been more thankful that I’m not one of the women who suffers HG with every pregnancy. I’m out of the danger zone of the early months, and at almost five months now I’ve been able to experience what a normal pregnancy is like without living in fear of the next throwing up episode. If I knew I would suffer from it again would I still have gone through with the pregnancy? Of course. And that’s the thing about HG, it tests your love and fierce determination to fight for your child before he’s even born. It showed me, in a strange way, what a mothers love feels like before I’d even felt him in my arms, because I was fighting for him every single day. And even though it was one of the worst things I’ve ever gone through, it was also the best as it gave me the most wonderful little boy in the world at the end of it.