Hyperemesis is Real

Hyperemesis is defined as ‘persistent severe vomiting leading to weight loss and dehydration, as a condition occurring during pregnancy.’ In a standard pregnancy, a woman may get nausea and vomiting between weeks 6-12 and then it tapers off. By maybe 14 weeks she starts to feel herself again, can go out and do her day to day job or duties as per usual. Unfortunately for many women, this is not possible because she may have severe morning sickness or she may have been diagnosed with hyperemesis.

With Henry, I was diagnosed at 12 weeks after having to leave work early to go to hospital for persistent vomiting. For around 2-3 days I had kept nothing down, not even water. I was vomiting relentlessly, and I had lost weight. I was prescribed ondansetron and it helped immensely. I didn’t have to swallow it which was great, and it just dissolved under the tongue. I had to keep taking it until around 20-24 weeks, but after that I was much better and wasn’t struggling with nausea anymore.

With our baby we lost, I interestingly didn’t get any sickness. As it was a missed miscarriage, my hcg levels most likely didn’t get highly enough for the nausea to start.

With Tulip, I probably feel the worst off out of all my pregnancies. There are so many varying factors I think for me. The first is morning sickness is hard as a first-time expectant mum, but then throw a toddler into the mix and it feels almost impossible to function. I probably am sleeping not as well as when I was pregnant with Henry, which doesn’t help the nausea for me either. Hyperemesis usually gets worse the more subsequent pregnancies you have also (not a hard and fast rule, but it’s common) which is another reason this one has been harder for me. It started earlier, and as I type this at 18.5 weeks, I’m lying horizontal on a bad day. I’ve applied my oil 3 times already. Had a glass of ginger ale. I’ve had two Maxolon tablets. I’ve been snacking all day. Sometimes, the old wives tales, even if they are true, just aren’t enough.

Someone asked me what severe morning sickness feels like. I replied with this description:

‘Imagine you’ve just had an epic night out, and now you have a hangover. Headache. Nauseous. Your friend has told you she wants to now catch a ferry to Manly from Circular Quay. You board the ferry unsteady from feeling awful. It’s rainy and it’s choppy and it’s going to be a rough half an hour.’

That is what severe morning sickness feels like for me. Hungover. At sea. In the rain.

I wanted to write this blog for two reasons. The first being I wanted to offer support for others. Getting a hyperemesis diagnosis can be really hard, and if I’m being 100% honest, I haven’t really felt heard as much with this pregnancy as Henry’s. What I mean by this, I didn’t actually feel like I was validated for having hyperemesis until my first midwife appointment a few weeks ago. I find it’s a bit of a fight to ‘prove’ how sick you are, which leads me to the second reason I wanted to write this blog, and that is awareness. This point needs a new paragraph.

There is probably nothing more frustrating to a woman dealing with severe morning sickness than having people call you weak, wimpy, a hypochondriac, or being told ‘unfortunately that’s the not-so-great part about pregnancy.’ Vomiting 8-12 times a day for weeks on end is not wimpy. It is what it is, and just because you didn’t experience it, that shouldn’t make it unbelievable. Just because a woman is showing up to work or functions looking well doesn’t mean she is. She has probably been mentally preparing herself for hours to show up in one piece, and most likely a lot of effort has been made to get there. When my morning sickness was at its worst, I had to complete a simple task like my make up in stages, sometimes vomiting between each part. I often had to do things sitting down.

I feel as though with severe morning sickness, ‘threshold’ doesn’t really come into it. You are either sucking on a hydrolyte ice block hoping for dear life it doesn’t come up in 20 mins or you’re not. You’re either walking in eggshells all day with debilitating nausea or you’re not. It either eases by 12-14 weeks or it does not. It’s pretty simple. Yes, of course there are varying degrees like with anything, but please, the one request all us HG mothers have, just believe us.

Okay, now the ranty part of my blog is done, onto the practical stuff if your are or someone you know if suffering. Firstly, validate it. Probably the thing I have mistakenly done each time is act the hero. I felt like I needed to soldier on with this one, which was exactly what I shouldn’t have done. I should have gone to seek a second opinion. Get help, and if your GP isn’t validating you, keep pushing or go elsewhere.

Secondly, suggestions like dry crackers, salty foods, ginger ale, flat lemonade, peppermint tea etc etc I found did help in the early days of standard morning sickness. However once a woman crosses over into the realms of HG or even severe morning sickness, unfortunately those suggestions will most likely be wasted on her. What people need to remember is HG is a disease. So telling a woman struggling with HG to eat something dry and salty when she is in the thick of it at 14 weeks is counterproductive. At this point most likely her best port of call will probably be medication, maybe even acupuncture, and then purely eating what she can keep down. For me, bacon and egg rolls have been great for me this time, chicken nuggets, flavored mineral water and other cold stuff like ice blocks and ice lattes for a kick of caffeine (caffeine is meant to help nausea like gingers does). Remember, a HG mother most likely has a phone and she was most likely googling remedies at 7 weeks. We know people mean well, but just something to keep in mind if you are the supporter!

If you are struggling, I see you. And just like a miscarriage, I wish it wasn’t happening to you. The one thing that helps me when I am struck with HG is that each and every nurse, doctor, midwife and health care provider always comment on what a healthy baby we must be growing to be this sick. But it’s true. It’s all totally worth it in the end, and keeping my eye on the moment my baby is out of my body and hcg won’t be running through my blood anymore gets me through day to day. Try and get some fresh air if you can, to help get your mind off it, but sleep and rest when you can. HG is tough, but so are you.