Author: Caitlin Ryan
What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is also known as “severe morning sickness”. Doesn’t sound that bad right? It is so much more than that. An all-consuming black cloud surrounds you during what is supposed to be a happy time for you and your family. It is severely debilitating, depressing and isolating and only truly understood by those that have experienced it. Imagine a bad hangover and gastro combined that doesn’t end. For 9 months. 24/7. And you’re getting close to what it feels like to experience HG.
“If morning sickness is a drop of rain. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is the hurricane.”
HG is severe vomiting and nausea in pregnancy. It is estimated to affect around 2% of pregnant women. There is a higher incidence of HG in multiples pregnancies. For some women it lasts for some of their pregnancy and for others like me it lasts the entire pregnancy and only stops once the baby is born (or babies). For some women the symptoms even linger post birth.
I suffered with HG for the duration of my pregnancies with both my daughter in 2014 and my boy/ girl twins in 2017.
How Hyperemesis Gravidarum affected me when I was pregnant with my singleton
Before I became pregnant with my daughter in 2014 I knew nothing about HG. I had heard Princess Kate had been hospitalized for her “bad morning sickness” but really how bad could it be? I was wrong. Very wrong. I got a positive pregnancy test at 5 weeks. My husband I were so excited to start our family. 3 days later the vomiting started. It didn’t stop.
My GP diagnosed me with HG and started me on medication. I tried all the medication and anything that has ever been mentioned to help morning sickness (ginger, travel bands, acupuncture, oils, etc). Ondansetron medication was the only thing that helped in that it limited the vomiting a little. Nothing helped the nausea though. It was unrelenting. 24/7. The only time I got relief was when I was sleeping. It was hard to sleep as I was so sick.
I couldn’t keep anything down apart from the occasional cheeseburger and coke. We had hospital visit after hospital visit for fluids. I kept thinking it would stop after 12 weeks, after 16 weeks, in 3rd trimester. It didn’t. I couldn’t imagine how it could be worth it. Nothing could be worth being this sick for this long could it? I had to finish work, I couldn’t participate in socialising with friends as family, I felt like a walking zombie.
I somehow survived and when our daughter Izzy was born the physical sickness fizzled away. But then the post natal depression and anxiety set in. For me it was due to HG. That eventually passed as well and as I got to enjoy my daughter I realised yes she was worth all that!
Could we go through it again?????
We both desperately wanted another baby and a sibling for Izzy but also knew that I was pretty much guaranteed to get HG again. Could we do this???? Could we go through another 9 months of hell for the precious reward of another child?
When Izzy was almost 3 we decided to try for another baby. Izzy was toilet trained, at preschool, could have sleepovers with grandparents etc. There are amazing mums that do go through HG when their other children are younger but for us it just wasn’t an option. This time would be different in that I would know what I was in for but that I also knew that it would all be worth it!
The positive test again at 5 weeks sparked such mixed emotions
Excitement and joy for another baby but fear over what was to come. Again the sickness started 3 days later. This time it was much worse. It was expected though. I had joined a facebook HG support group and had noticed generally HG seemed to get worse with subsequent pregnancies. My husband commented that maybe I was sicker coz it was twins. My GP said the same and offered a dating scan which I declined.
I was so sick. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t look after Izzy, I couldn’t do any of the household tasks. Leaving the house was too hard. I couldn’t function. I went from the bed to the bathroom to the couch. As I said HG is so debilitating, depressing, isolating. I am so lucky to have a supportive husband and family that could take over looking after Izzy and doing all the household tasks as I couldn’t do any of it. Some women with HG don’t have that luxury.
I took the Ondansetron and tried to stay as hydrated as I could with small sips of water and hydralite icypoles.
There was no use trying anything else as it didn’t work last time and I realised one of the other medications I tried had actually been giving me anxiety. I tried to avoid hospital as much as I could this time as I hated it but went in for fluids when I had to.
Even though it was an informed decision to go through another HG pregnancy I regretted it when I became sick. Doubt set in if I could get through it. I got the details for an abortion. I knew I couldn’t go through with that but sadly a proportion of HG pregnancies do end in termination.
Somehow I got through the endless days and nights of vomiting and made it to our 12 week scan. As soon as the ultrasound was on my belly you could clearly see 2 babies on the screen! I was so shocked it was twins but hubby of course said “I told you so”.
From there it was just a matter of surviving through each day to the “finish line” and the reward at the end. The daily vomiting, the unrelenting nausea, the bad headaches, the constipation and other side effects from the Ondansetron, the hospital visits when needed, the missing out on life for 8 months.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is not only a physical challenge but a mental challenge as well
You know you are lucky to be pregnant and should be grateful and happy but you feel so sick and upset that you have to go through so much suffering that others don’t have to. Anger towards the “glowing” pregnant women that sail through pregnancy hits you. You know it will all be worth it and that it will end but the hours, days, months to the finish line all seem so long.
The hours, days, months eventually ticked over and our twins Alexandra and Owen were born at 36 weeks. It was a hectic and challenging birth and recovery for all of us but I felt amazing comparatively and was so ecstatic that they were here and that I didn’t have to endure another minute of the living hell of HG!!!!!
For me, having twins and a singleton is easier than dealing with hyperemesis gravidarum.
Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum worse with twins and multiples?
I have had so many people comment and say to me how challenging it must be to have twins (and an older child as well) and that I’m doing a great job but seriously it’s so easy compared to surviving through HG. Having twins is such a blessing and to us it feels like we got a bonus child that we never imagined having as we knew we could only go through one more pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong of course as any twin mum knows it can be hectic at times! Is Hyperemesis Gravidarum worse with twins? I don’t know if it is “worse”, but it is more common.
The silver lining to come out of my HG experience is that I know I can get through anything! I thought I had faced physical and mental challenges before- ide lost 30kg, done triathlons, hiked 100km……….. All were insignificant compared to HG! And of course the amazing “prize” I got at the end of it- our 3 little ratbags (whoops I mean cherubs!). I appreciate that twin mums (and all mums) have many different challenges involving having children and didn’t mean to upset anyone by sharing my story.
If you are currently suffering with HG I am truly sorry.
If you are a first time mum I promise you it will all be worth it even though it is hard to imagine it will be. I recommend joining the Facebook group “Hyperemesis Gravidarum Support Australia” if you haven’t already as I did find it helpful mentally to know I wasn’t alone in my HG struggle.
Note: The medication photo at the top of this post is the packets of medication I saved from just the third trimester. This medication was just for my HG and associated headaches and heartburn.