My experiences of hyperemesis gravidarum

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.

 

William and pregnant Kate leaving hospital

William and a pregnant Kate leaving hospital

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.

Baby Astala

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).

 

Peaches Geldof and baby Astala

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.

17 comments

  1. I suffered from HG when I was pregnant with my son too. Unless you have suffered with it there is no way you could possibly explain the severity it is. Thankfully I was diagnosed straight away but didn’t receive the help I needed and was told by a nurse ‘well that’s what you get when your pregnant’. It carried on for 9 weeks, I was completely bed ridden and could only manage to get to the toilet, I too had a bucket by my bed, I lost a stone. This is not just morning sickness, on so many occasions I remember sobbing asking if it was worth it, which admitting now sounds awful but that’s what the effects of HG are.

    • ” . . . I remember sobbing asking if it was worth it, which admitting now sounds awful . . . ”

      Kirsty, it does NOT sound awful! Who wouldn’t ask themselves that? Very understandable!

  2. I too suffered from HG. I am currently pregnant (28 weeks almost) and for the first 20 weeks it was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. My nausea and vomiting hasn’t completely stopped but it has gone done about 95%. I was so fragile, the doctors were about hospitalize me during week 8-9 because I was dehydrated and weak, but instead I chose best rest for 5 days. I had to let my work know about my pregnancy because I couldn’t hide it. I looked frail, sick, even green most of the time. I lost 15 pounds (I am already a skinny person so I look anorexic at one point). I was terrified for my baby’s health and myself and kept asking my doctor if the baby was all right. Luckily she was and she is still! I had to take so many different pills for morning sickness and nothing help. Not even crackers and I too couldn’t even drink water cause that made me sick. I was tired all the time, light headed, had horrible headaches cause I wasn’t eating anything all day, and because I wasn’t eating anything, all that was coming out of me was bile. I couldn’t remember what it was like not feeling sick and just being normal!

    The saddest part about all this is that I didn’t really enjoy my pregnancy for the first 5 months and I was just constantly getting depress instead of feeling happy.

    I hope a lot of doctors and pregnant women take it more seriously and understand that they are not alone. And that even though I hated when people would tell me this, this too shall pass! and that it is all worth it.

  3. Not only did the pregnancy give her a beautiful little boy, but due to her massive weight loss from HG, she now looks better than ever. Congrats girl!

  4. I have not suffered from this but had other serious conditions crop up as a result of pregnancy. I have the utmost empathy and sympathy for anyone having a difficult pregnancy, especially when you are concerned with the health of your unborn child.

  5. I suffered from HG as well. Symptoms started a week after I learned I was pregnant. I was lucky that my Doctor knew what was wrong, thus I was treated very proactively by my surgery, then in hospital. Yet it can only be treatment – not a cure, and I remained unwell for months. It was a terrifying insight into the debilitating nature of illness and made me examine previously-held attitudes to all illnesses. I feel sorry for Kate, who must feel as though she is being seasick 24 hours a day. HG isn’t morning sickness, and sufferers do not need well-meaning suggestions such as drinking ginger tea, munching on dry toast and going for gentle walks! They need medical treatment and lots of rest. Good luck with your pregnancy, I am too afraid to get pregnant again.

  6. 48 years ago I went through this ghastly sickness and and during a second pregnancy it all happened again. This time I was kept in hospital for 14 weeks which did help. I would vomit when a certain nurse came on duty, the reason turning out to be her choice of deodorant! I felt guilty and freakish for being so different to other pregnant women. I sympathise with any woman afflicted. It is truly the worst experience!

  7. Thanks for sharing your story and I hope this helps other women. Sad though that you had to show your internet research first to get a correct diagnosis.

  8. Peaches is lucky she doesn’t have it every pregnancy like my mother did nearly 30 years ago. when mum had me she suffered until after I was born and the only thing that stopped it was a joint. I wish people would stop assuming just because Kate has it that she’s having twins it happens just as Often in a singleton pregnancy and fraternal twins usually skip at least a generation

  9. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope your telling of your HG experience contributes to greater understanding and awareness of this horrific condition. And really there is no better word than ‘horrific’ is there?!

  10. HG needs more awareness!
    Feel sorry for all the expectant mothers out there with HG, I suffered from it throughout my pregnancy it started at 8 weeks when I was first hospitalised and was put on a drip for dehydration and the sickness lasted for the remaining 7 months, I was never told I had HG although I was so sick I couldn’t even get out of bed on my own, and was vomiting blood, all I was told was that I had severe morning sickness and only a few pregnant women ever got it that bad. My sickness never got any better, I was still vomiting throughout my labour, not an easy task pushing a baby and vomiting at the same time! The only up side to all of this was that I walked out of the maternity hospital 3 days after having my beautiful and healthy baby daughter wearing a size 6 drees!

  11. Worst time of my life and it happened both pregnancies. Strangely, the minute each baby was born I came right and was able to enjoy a cup of tea again and not throw it up. The bliss of being well again was amazing.

  12. Unless you’ve been there you have no idea how bad it is. I suffered HG through two pregnancies and was advised not to try again (advice I followed, after nearly losing both children). I am so sad that Kate Middleton is suffering from this condition, but relieved to hear people listening and taking her condition seriously. It’s not a joke and it’s not morning sickness. It’s hell.

  13. Wow, what a story. So great that you’re sharing your experiences with us all. Sounds extremely difficult but like you said the gift you’re given at the end of it is well worth it.
    Definitely the more information we have
    out there the better. Thanks Peaches and you are such a talented communicator, just like your dear Mum.
    I’m 41 and trying to fall pregnant for the first time and have been told how ‘difficult’ it will be but i’m hoping my baby will come. I’m glad i’m finding out more and more of all the ins and outs of womens experiences.

  14. Well said, I suffered from HG with my first pregnancy, just like you I was bed bound with a plastic bucket and survived by drinking sips of flat Coke (the only fluid that would stay down temporarily). I tried lots of anti-emetics and they didn’t work I lost two stone . I couldn’t tell you how many times a day I vomitted it was relentless, I did actually want to die at the time. Mind you, I consider myself one of the lucky ones almost as soon as I hit 12 weeks the nausea subsided.

    When I found out that I was pregnant a second time I honestly cried, the horror of going through it all again seemed too much, but miraculously I didn’t get it. I had what some would consider bad pregnancy sickness, all day nausea but only vomitted about once a day. To me that was nothing.

    I hope the current media attention raises awareness of the condition, I have seen women scoffing on FB about being hospitalised with ‘morning sickness’. When I have more free time, I want to volunteer to help other women through one of the charities.

  15. I suffered HG from 6 weeks pregnant up to birth. The knowledge of HG where I live is non existent so unfortunately treatment wasn’t great. The HG got worse the further on the pregnancy developed, I was bed bound for 8 months and from 28 weeks pregnant when I was rushed into hospital with a really bad kidney infection I could no longer stand up unaided.

    It’s a very depressing illness, unrelenting and cruel. I feel so upset for anyone who has to suffer this just to have a child. Unless there is a drastic change in medical care I may never have another baby, it breaks my heart that I missed out on every aspect of pregnancy. But I’m so thankful for my healthy 8 month old son who was born a good 6lb 6oz.

  16. I had HG four years ago with my daughter, was sick all day everyday. I couldnt even swallow my Saliva. I was put on sickness tabs but never told what was wrong with me.
    I’m not 11 weeks and has had so bad I took my pillow and blanket went to bed in the bathroom, iv been given sickness tablets and been told I have HG… It’s horrible and feel like my body is closing down. I take my hat off to anyone who has suffed from HG, no will ever understand how hard it is till they have had it, I’m started mine just before Kate and people just thought it was morning sickness and Kate brought it into awearness thank goodness. This website has been so much help thank you.

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