Have you ever had food poisoning? Have you ever had food poisoning for six months? I have, at least it's the best way I can describe my first pregnancy with my son. Most women will experience some form of morning sickness in their pregnancy, usually in the first trimester. Some women get a little nauseous but never throw-up, some women get nauseous a lot but never throw-up, then there are those that do experience vomiting sometimes, or even those who struggle quite a bit with throwing-up for a handful of weeks or months. Then there is the 2% of women. These are the women who cannot function with daily life. Women who cannot stop violently throwing-up. The ones that usually end up in the hospital due to dehydration. This is Hyperemesis Gravidarum, one of the most misunderstood and under researched condition in pregnancy.
I've never really been able to choose when to tell my family and friends about my pregnancies. A lot of women here in America feel it is most appropriate to tell family and friends about a pregnancy after the first trimester has passed, between 12-14 weeks. The longest I've ever been able to hold off on telling someone about my pregnancy, other than my spouse, is 5 weeks in. It's incredibly difficult to hide going into the hospital or disappearing from all social circles without an explanation. Nor do I want to hide away from people I care about most in my life in one of the most darkest, depressing times I've had to go through.
And there I was again in the same situation. I knew that my chances were high on experiencing Hyperemesis Gravidarum in any following pregnancies. I tried to prepare the best I could and have a game plan set in place yet I ended up in the ER around 6 weeks just like before. Even though I felt I had a better understanding of the sickness this time and did everything I was supposed to do to take care of myself nothing prepares you for the emotional toll it takes on you and your spouse (in my case). Imagine going into the hospital multiple times in your pregnancy to be told that they are "expecting the worst", explain to you and your husband what happens in a miscarriage and that you very well could be experiencing one, since in their minds there is not a lot explanation why you are in this much agony in the ER for a little morning sickness. This is not a one time isolated experience either. It's the worst feeling in the world when the ER doctor looks at you, clearly you can see and feel his frustration and says, "we've given you a lot of medication at this point. There isn't much else we can do for you. You should be feeling better. You don't feel any better?" Even a large majority of medical professionals do not understand the condition well. Why is that? Well, because so very few women experience it, there is not a lot of research done on the matter. I'd say If it wasn't for a celebrity like Kate Middleton having experiencing HG twice, barely anyone would know about the condition existing other than those who have experienced it themselves. It's very misunderstood and sometimes hard to find resources for it.
It just plain sucks and it's hard. It's really really hard. I hope someday we will have a lot better understanding of HG and that women will not feel guilt from friends, family, and strangers revealing their pregnancies early-on or to be shamed by medical professionals in emergency rooms because they know very little about the condition. There have been many times I've held back tears from nurses or friends saying, "Oh your pregnant! Yeah, it's common to feel sick right now. Don't worry, it will be all gone here in a few weeks. Morning sickness can be such a pain sometimes."
I would never be able to get through my pregnancies without the love and support from my family and friends. And even though I do not really have the option to choose when I share my pregnancy news I don't think I'd really have it any other way. Pregnancy can be celebrated in the first trimester as well with the second, third, and into birth. If I could give advice to those struggling with Hyperemesis Gravidarum or really anyone struggling with some aspect of their pregnancy is that your mental health should not be ignored. Keep family and/or friends close to you. What if we experience a loss? Keep in mind that babies are lost in all stages of pregnancy and birth. Don't struggle alone. Your baby deserves to be celebrated and recognized regardless of how long they lived inside of you.
To close on a more upbeat note, it will end, I promise. Sometimes not until baby is born and for a very small number it can continue for some time even after baby is born. It may even have some long term health effects on women because of the toll it took on the body. I felt fortunate that both times mine ended in the beginning of the third trimester. Remember, it is incredibly hard for family and friends to comprehend and fully understand what you are going through. Your baby will come so try to look forward to that day when you get to meet. I know it's hard to when you are living one day at a time. Know that you are loved and people want to help you, so please let them, even if that means announcing your pregnancy earlier than you would have liked, because your mental and physical health matters.
Important things to do if you are struggling with HG:
- Don't ignore your mental health
- Seek a doctor or midwife that has experience and understands treating women with HG
- Try to hire a doula that knows how to support you with your condition
- Allow people to help you manage your life
- If possible, find a support group
Fantastic Hyperemesis Gravidarum Resource: (Link) Her Foundation - Hyperemesis Education and Research