Life After…Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Today’s Life After…guest post is from the lovely Jenni, who blogs at Odd Socks and Lollipops. Jenni suffered hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) during her pregnancy. You may remember that Kate Middleton experienced it during her pregnancy with Prince George (although it was often described, wrongly, as ‘bad morning sickness’).

As Jenni describes in her emotive post, HG is much more than that. Jenni’s post is so very important because she describes how debilitating the condition is – and the devastating consequences of not receiving appropriate medical care or support.

Thank you, Jenni for sharing your story – I am sure it will help countless other women.

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It was all very exciting and a bit scary seeing that positive test. We had 9 months to prepare for the biggest change in our lives. I dreamed of 9 months of buying all things baby related, spending hours browsing all those tiny clothes in the shops, planning and decorating the nursery. I envisioned, wandering (waddling) proudly around with an ever growing bump. These dreams lasted all of 2 weeks.

At 6 weeks my nausea started, creeping at first, a meal that I just didn’t fancy, feeling extra travel sick in the car, slowly it got worse. I was actually glad at first; didn’t sickness mean baby was healthy? And it would, of course, pass by 12 weeks, I could handle vague nausea for a few weeks. Piece of cake.

Wrong.

By week 10 I had been in bed for over a week throwing up most of what managed to pass my lips, which was rapidly becoming only sips of water. Everything smelt awful, the house, the outside, my husband. Any movement of the bed and the nausea got worse, most of the time I didn’t even have the strength to make it to the toilet. I gave up trying and lay there with a sick bowl next to me and my pockets filled with small plastic bags when I finally did start making the long journey down the stairs, sitting on each step and waiting, waiting until I know I wasn’t going to throw up – on this step at least, until I eventually reached the bottom and crawled on to the sofa.

I made the marathon trip to the Doctors a few times, sat in the waiting room swaying backwards and forwards, grey, praying I could last without throwing up in the middle of the waiting room. After two sets of medication which had done nothing to ease the nausea or the vomiting, I saw a different Dr who signed me off work for a month with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, told me the meds wouldn’t help so I should stop them and that all I needed was bedrest.

WRONG.

Most days I lost count of the amount of times I vomited. I couldn’t brush my teeth to get rid of the metallic taste which made the nausea worse because the thought of putting anything in my mouth made me sick. Some days I didn’t even go to the loo because there was no fluid – I realise now that I should have probably gone back to the Dr’s but I was too busy surviving each day.

I lay day after day, week after week staring blankly at a muted television not caring what was on an on my worse days hoping I would fall asleep and not wake up. I existed in a world where everything made me sicker – sounds, smells, bright colours, movement. Being awake was torture, only sleep offered brief, disturbed respite and I fell asleep knowing I would have to wake up and live through the hell again tomorrow.

One day I had made the effort to get up and have a shower, with my husband’s help, and I can remember vividly begging him hysterically to promise me that no matter what I would say in the future that we should never get pregnant again, ever. I remember most days wondering if I should carry on (was this a sign that I shouldn’t be a mum?). And most days I wondered if I could carry on – I know that some women feel they have to have terminations due to HG because they cannot cope, especially when they have children to look after and need to work. It was an awful thing to even consider in the darkest corners of your mind, terminating a healthy baby but it does cross your mind…

Finally, after what seemed like years, the vomiting started to happen less often and I could boast going X amount of hours without throwing up.   Then I went 24 hours without vomiting, it felt like such a milestone. At around the 19 week mark my vomiting was only occasional and stayed that way for the rest of my 41 week pregnancy.

The nausea however did not fade, it did not get better, it stayed with me until my daughter, Boo, was born at 41 weeks. The only respite was when I was sleeping, and the second I woke it hit me instantly again. Food tasted wrong and although I wasn’t throwing up it was still an effort to eat, and I could only stomach very few foods. Being nauseous all of the time zapped my strength and I felt exhausted and had to start taking iron tablets, which in turn made my nausea worse.

I had to force myself to eat every two hours otherwise the nausea became overwhelming, and I found it very difficult to function, I had returned to work at this point. The weight I had lost, about 10kg, slowly returned as my pregnancy progressed and my daughter was born healthy – which I am immensely grateful for.

I feel the guilt of taking those tablets even though it was only for a short time (especially after the Dr told me I shouldn’t be taking them). I feel the guilt of failure – feeling like my body had failed me – like I wasn’t up to the task of becoming a mum, a warning that I was doomed to fail from before I really started. These feelings not helped by the constant stream of advice…You are just pregnant not ill … Have you tried ginger (have you tried throwing up ginger?) … It’s all in your head … Morning sickness goes at (insert arbitrary week here)… Go for a walk…

I was essentially left to suffer, and because I had neither the energy nor the presence of mind at the time I didn’t argue or research any other options… this makes me feel angry and upset. There are lots of treatment options for HG, safe treatment options. No woman should be left to suffer. There have been deaths due to HG related complications in the last ten years in the UK. No ginger biscuit is going to solve HG… proper medical treatment is needed not well-meaning, outdated advice.

It’s difficult for me to reconcile what should have been one of the happiest times of my life with the worse experience I have ever gone through. I cannot help but feel angry that I essentially ‘missed out’ on pregnancy, a lot of this anger is directed to Drs who should have given me the correct treatment and towards my own body for letting me down and failing me so miserably.

I have lost count of the amount of times I was told ‘It’s worth it’ whilst I was pregnant. And if I look at it like that, yes it was. Boo is worth it, worth every single second of the nausea and the vomiting.   But I very firmly believe that it wasn’t necessary to pay that price. Boo and I didn’t have to go through this if I had been given the proper treatment.

Once I gave birth the nausea faded and it thankfully became just a memory, one easily forgotten in the whirlwind of newborn baby, sleepless nights, feeding and nappy changes. Sadly, HG has had some lasting effects: my newly developed obsession about hands being completely clean at all times; food if I even think it could be off has to go in the bin, even if there is no reason to think it would be out of date; certain foods I still cannot eat; and catching a sickness bug a couple of months ago was a horribly traumatic experience and caused major panic.

I live with the constant fear. Fear of feeling sick, of being sick and of feeling as helpless and worthless as I did when I was pregnant. There is also the guilt about what damage may have been done to Boo, the grieving for a pregnancy which I never ‘had’ (which sounds silly when I write it down), the jealousy when I hear other ladies are pregnant (which I have been assured is common by other HG survivors but I still feel ashamed to be listening to the green eyed monster). I am also grieving for a baby I will probably never have, a sibling for Boo. I am not sure I am strong enough to go through HG again, I am not sure I would be able to look after myself and Boo.

I try hard not to feel guilty that I am probably not going to give Boo a sibling (even though in my heart of hearts I think she should have a sibling). I quietly grieve for my pregnancy and the baby that never will be. At times I feel ridiculous for feeling like this, selfish even, because I have Boo, she is my world, she should be my focus and nothing else. And I do count my blessings, I have Boo, she is healthy and we have a happy life with my husband and as a stay at home mum which means Boo and I have all the time in the world together.

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If you would like to share your Life After…story, please get in touch:

email headspace-perspective@outlook.com

 

 

 

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24 Comments on Life After…Hyperemesis Gravidarum

  1. Rachel
    May 10, 2017 at 7:33 pm (2 weeks ago)

    I too had HG.. I have a amazing 2 year old.. I was being sick by week 3 and I was stilling throwing up the morning of giving birth… I throw up everyday countless times even water i would be sick. At one point I could only manage lucozade. Even the dr had a go at me for drinking something so bad but it was the only thing I could drink and hold down. Did not eat just had that. I would only eat things that were easily brought back up…. such as soup. I could not shower without throwing up, washing my hair made me throw up. It was an horrific experience.. people tell me the next pregnancy would be different and it only 9 months. but the 9 months of tears sickness and hated it from the moment I found out.. But the fear I have is that it would be the same or worse. I think it would totally unfair for my son to have no mum for 9months my otherhalf would have to give up work to look after me… so I know deep down that he have no siblings. This sounds weird but I have found labour so easy even though I was in labour for 3 days… the nausea lasted a further week after birth but was not sick.. HG is not fun and its something that is not dealt with… if anyone mentioned ginger to anyone who suffers from HG would not be surprised about their reaction. I did not have family near me to support me and I kept alot of my sickness to myself and my partner.. the advice it only last until 12 weeks… my son was born 2 weeks late and I was still throwing up… I had some medication sometimes it work other times it did not… HG is no laughing matter.. I so wished I could have enjoyed been pregnant… I still have fears..

    Reply
  2. debbie wade
    August 18, 2016 at 7:57 am (9 months ago)

    i sufferd from this to .it really is this awfull no exageration ..i felt exactly like that lady did ..felt so ill i wanted to die ..it was my first pregnancy and my last as i no i couldent go through this again ..i was in bed for 5 months with sickness 24/7 only time i wasent sick or feeling sick was when i miserably fell asleep ..i lost 3 stone under 6 stone i was and still nobody was realising it was so serious ..i thought about termination as i just wanted it to stop ..as that lady said you just struggle through dreading waking up feeling so ill ..i was hospitalised 16 times and on a drip ..and still felt so poorly ..cudnt even think about the baby as i was to ill to care ..feel so sorry for any woman going through this as you cant truly understand until you have had it ..made sure i never had anymore children and i was sad my son wudnt ever have a sibling but i knew i would die if i had it again ..i have explained all this to him now he is 14 and why he has no brothers or sisters

    Reply
  3. Little Green Tree
    May 15, 2015 at 8:50 pm (2 years ago)

    I relate to so much if what you wrote! I ended up off work for three months with HG .it really is a sickness like no other. I dreaded waking every morning knowing I had to get through a day-all I wanted was bed. Amazing how quick the baby’s arrival makes it disappear!!

    Reply
    • Leigh Kendall
      May 16, 2015 at 7:19 am (2 years ago)

      I’m sorry to hear you experienced HG too, it does sound horrendous. Thank you for commenting xx

      Reply
    • Jenni - Odd Socks and Lollipops
      May 24, 2015 at 10:49 am (2 years ago)

      I am so sorry to hear about your awful experience – it’s so difficult. It really is amazing how quickly it goes though, miraculous!

      Reply
  4. Mummy Writes
    May 14, 2015 at 1:58 pm (2 years ago)

    This is such an interesting read, and one that’s so important! Anyone who’s been ill during pregnancy will know how hard it is – not everyone sails through these things! I was ‘lucky’ I didn’t have sickness but I felt rotten for the first few months with each one. This illness I know is off the scale and I’ve known a few women who have really suffered with it. #brillblogposts

    Reply
    • Jenni - Odd Socks and Lollipops
      May 14, 2015 at 7:25 pm (2 years ago)

      It really is difficult to suffer with any kind of illness when you are pregnant because there is so much added worry. I think the problem with HG is that it is dismissed and left untreated – and that is what makes it so dangerous.

      Reply
  5. Mary @TheHeartyLife
    May 13, 2015 at 8:55 pm (2 years ago)

    I had it in my second pregnancy, went to the GP at 10weeks about it and was told “its part of pregnancy” and that I had a couple of keytones in my urine but that it was nothing to worry about – keep trying to eat (the thought of which made me sick too), that night was in A&E and a week in hospital – they gave me 6 bags of fluid in the 1st few hrs – it was AWFUL! Im glad it didn’t last the whole way through like yours – my oh my what a rough ride! x

    Reply
    • Jenni - Odd Socks and Lollipops
      May 14, 2015 at 7:22 pm (2 years ago)

      I am so sorry to hear that you suffered too. It’s awful isn’t it, to go in to the drs (which is a trek in itself) only to be told what you are suffering is normal – when it must definitely is not! It is really rough and more research is showing that treating it early can help so much, it’s such a shame that GPs are not more knowledgeable.

      Reply
  6. Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork
    May 13, 2015 at 7:23 am (2 years ago)

    It’s been both very hard and very reassuring reading this. Hard because it’s brought back all sorts of traumatic memories, and reassuring because I’m feeling much of what you describe too. I still gag when I brush my teeth, and it brings back a pang of panic every time. And yes, the guilt. I was never prescribed meds so I can’t beat myself up about having taken them, but instead I feel guilty for not having fought harder, for – quite literally – just rolling over and accepting the doctors’ non-diagnosis (it’s barely recognised as a condition in Italy so of course noone prescribed anything) until it all went away.
    Both my husband and I are very unsure of whether we want another baby. M is now 2 and though we’d both love for him to have a sibling, we’re nowhere near ready to start trying. We tell ourselves it’s because we’re about to move to a new country again and we want to wait until we’re all settled, but really I think it’s because both of us are terrified of going through months of HG again. Without any support, without being believed. With another child to look after.
    There are days when I think that we could survive it, given that we now know so much more about what HG. I’d never allow ourselves to suffer in silence like that again (stupid, totally arbitrary 12-week scan rule). But then there are many more days when I feel certain the trauma would be too much. Not just of being physically sick, but of wanting to die. That, over everything else, was the worst thing about it for me. Knowing I was carrying another life inside me but wanting to die anyway. How on earth do you overcome the guilt and trauma of that? I don’t know, but I do know it’s okay to grieve, to feel traumatised, to feel let down by the medical profession. It’s not ridiculous or selfish at all.
    Anyway, thank you for sharing your story and sorry this has become a bit of a novel! I did love your comment “have your tried throwing up ginger”. Good to know there is a snigger to find in all the misery, eh 😉

    Reply
    • Leigh Kendall
      May 13, 2015 at 7:40 am (2 years ago)

      I’m so sorry, Elena. You’re right it’s ok to grieve, to feel traumatised, to feel let down. Perfectly understandable in the circumstances. Best wishes to you for whatever you decide in the future xxx

      Reply
    • oddsocksandlollipops
      May 13, 2015 at 9:14 am (2 years ago)

      I am really sorry to hear that you suffered, and were, like me, left to suffer untreated. It is appalling. I hope that whatever you and your husband to decide you get the support you need. I think that a lot of women who suffer with HG do need some support after birth (as well as during pregnancy) HG can have long reaching effects and these need to be talked about and dealt with too.

      Reply
  7. Ghostwritermummy
    May 12, 2015 at 7:44 pm (2 years ago)

    Oh Jenni! Sadly, I can relate to so much of this. Luka’s pregnancy was bad enough with constant nausea but with elsie it was something else. Paul worked away most of the week last year and I used to drag myself through to 7.30 then just collapse. Luckily meds helped me but I still struggled with smells and movement and even when it subsided being put panicked me. I’ve only really started do zociAlise again 6 months after she was born. It’s so hard to get people to unstatbad and I lost friends who just didn’t get why I vohldnt be there for them in the same way I had previously. It’s hideous and more understanding is needed. FhBks so much for sharing your story x x x

    Reply
    • oddsocksandlollipops
      May 13, 2015 at 9:10 am (2 years ago)

      It’s always so awful to hear of someone else that has suffered. I can understand not wanting to socialise, just getting through the day was more than enough. It’s so frustrating that we can’t properly explain and make people understand what it is like, day after day. I am so very sorry you have lost friends, I wish people could be more understanding.

      Reply
  8. Tara
    May 12, 2015 at 11:43 am (2 years ago)

    My goodness Jenni, how awful. And, as you say, it didn’t need to be like that. Hopefully if more people are aware of it, through posts like this, mothers will be better taken care of. (Such a great series, Leigh.)

    Reply
    • oddsocksandlollipops
      May 12, 2015 at 3:01 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank Tara, there is a lot of work trying to raise awareness and convincing healthcare professionals that there are safe treatment options but it’s a long process and some G.Ps are more open to prescribing medication than others – so it can be a bit hit and miss.

      Reply
    • Leigh Kendall
      May 13, 2015 at 7:35 am (2 years ago)

      Thanks Tara, I hope posts like this helps women receive the care they need, and empowers women suffering from HG to insist on appropriate treatment xx

      Reply
  9. Joelle
    May 12, 2015 at 11:12 am (2 years ago)

    Thank you for writing this jenni & for sharing on your blog Leigh. Both myself & my sister suffered terribly with HG in both our pregnancies. It is so poorly understood by most people , sadly & most crucially by GPs & sometimes midwives who seen to be too scared to treat it effectively.
    I only received treatment after being hospitalised at 7 weeks in my second pregnancy due to dehyration( which was deemed high risk due to previous HELLP syndrome- yes HELLP & HG I felt as if I collected ‘rare’ pregnancy conditions) & my poor sister ended up in hospital many times, once passing out repeatedly in the hospital reception before being treated. This shouldn’t have to happen to prove that is not just morning sickness.
    Well done on raising awareness.
    Thank you
    Xx

    Reply
    • oddsocksandlollipops
      May 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm (2 years ago)

      I can’t imagine having to witness someone else going through HG, it must be awful. I feel guilt knowing that because I suffered Boo is more likely to suffer from it. It’s such a horrible thing to suffer and you are right – it is misunderstood even by healthcare professionals. I really think more needs to be done to ensure healthcare professionals are aware of the treatment options. I am so sorry that you and your sister suffered, my heart just sinks every time I hear about another lady that has had to go through it.

      Reply
    • Leigh Kendall
      May 13, 2015 at 7:34 am (2 years ago)

      Hi Joelle, I’m so sorry to read you suffered from HG as well as getting HELLP. Hugs to you xxx

      Reply
  10. oddsocksandlollipops
    May 12, 2015 at 9:22 am (2 years ago)

    Thank you so much for giving me the inspiration to write this and for sharing it too.

    Reply
    • Leigh Kendall
      May 13, 2015 at 7:33 am (2 years ago)

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jenni. From the comments we can see it has resonated with so many other women. xxx

      Reply
      • oddsocksandlollipops
        May 13, 2015 at 9:18 am (2 years ago)

        I must admit I am so hard and makes me so sad to read that others have suffered but also happy that my post can get people talking about it. So many mixed emotions.

        Reply

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