Hyperemesis Gravidarum. No, I’m not swearing at you but if those are words you are familiar with, I won’t be surprised if you just flinched.
Hyperemesis is Greek for “excessive vomiting’ and Gravida Latin for “pregnant” means just that: excessive vomiting in pregnancy.
According to Wikipedia, Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a severe form of morning sickness, with “unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids.” Hyperemesis is considered a rare complication of pregnancy but, because nausea and vomiting during pregnancy exist on a continuum, there is often not a good diagnosis between common morning sickness and hyperemesis. Estimates of the percentage of pregnant women afflicted range from 0.3% to 2.0%
And of courses, I fall into that 0.3% to 2.0%
When I was pregnant with Ameli, I lost 18kg – that’s around 3 stone or just shy of 40lbs. and around 15% of my pre-pregnancy body weight – in the first five months and was eventually hospitalised. I had a particularly bad doctor who not only didn’t know what was wrong, but when I took the diagnoses of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (made by my mother on the phone from Australia) to him, kept rolling his eyes and telling me pregnant women got sick, and I just had to -suck it up’ (despite having 5+ ketones in my urine). When I finally almost collapsed at work at around 11 weeks, having had one meal in 14 days, and not eaten anything in 7, and kept no water down in three days, I was admitted to A&E where I was put on a drip and had almost 5 litres of intravenous nutrition before I could even urinate.
And because of all this, I’ve been very apprehensive of falling pregnant again. But nature and desire won out, and here I am: five weeks pregnant, and two days food free.
HG has never really had many studies or had much research into it. There are a few theories, though little fact. There’s a suspicion that it could be genetic – I know my grandmother had it for her entire pregnancy, although I’m not sure about my mother. It could also be to do with the HCG level, or with leptin. The fact is, no one really knows. As a result, there’s also no known treatment for it, but it is known that -normal’ morning sickness treatments do not work.
In the past, women have died from this disease. I was ‘lucky’ in that I was only ill for five months. Some women suffer the entire pregnancy, and some continue to suffer even after the child is born. Charlotte Bronte is suspected of dying from HG – due to malnourishment and dehydration. At least I know that I can walk into any A&E and ask to be put on a drip if it comes to that again.
The worst insult to HG is that in bygone years, it was believed to be a psychological reaction to not wanting the child. I remember one night, three day before being admitted into hospital when I was so tired, and so sick of being sick that I told Martin I didn’t know if I wanted my baby anymore. That was when he realised that I was nearing the end of my tether. So that’s another side effect of HG – prenatal depression. Fortunately that lifted for me once someone started listening to me and believing that there really was something wrong with me.
I’m not sure how this is all going to unfold this time. I already feel weak, tired, and unable to cope with the stress Hyperemesis Gravidarum puts on your body and those closest to you, but at least this time know what to do about it, and where to go for help.
The sad fact is that I can’t get help until things are bad. I’m sleeping for large chunks of the day, listless and dizzy, nauseous and short of patience for the parts I’m not sleeping or leaning over the toilet.
Last time I got reprieve from the sickness at night, but so far, that’s not the case this time. Although I do feel particularly ill when Ameli nurses, which she tends to mainly at night, so that doesn’t really help.
Watch this space, I guess, to see how it all works out.
Oh, and FYI, things NOT to say to a Hyperemesis Gravidarum sufferer include, but are not limited to:
- Every pregnancy is different
- Have you tried ginger?
- You’re just sick cause it’s a (insert sex here)
- Do you really want this baby?