Nicola, a lovely British mummy based in South Africa, shares her experience of extreme pregnancy sickness with us.
“15 May is hyperemesis gravidarum awareness day. On 15 May last year, I was blissfully unaware of the condition. Like most women trying to conceive their first child, I was wondering if it was too early to do a pregnancy test and over analysing every twinge in my body, hoping that this was the month. By 23 May I knew it was. After months of trying, my husband and I were over the moon. But on 24 May I saw an out of hours doctor because I felt deeply unwell. I thought it might be a bladder infection. In fact, it was the start of severe pregnancy sickness.
The physical effects of hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG, are grim. The dictionary definition of ‘excessive nausea and vomiting’ doesn’t really do it justice. For some women, the frequency of vomiting, hundreds of times a day, is comparable to the sensation of water-boarding. I was lucky. My sickness was relatively mild and I started anti-emetics early in my first trimester. It was still hellish: crying in bed in the middle of the night because my husband breathed out loudly and the movement made me want to vomit; retching so hard I wet myself; sitting in my own sick in the shower; gagging at the sight of a glass of water.
But the emotional toll of HG is also devastating and often under-reported. At its worst, you live minute to minute. You feel like a failure, as though your body isn’t up to the job of being pregnant. You wonder if you will ever be well enough to attend antenatal classes or go shopping for nappies. You worry about the medication you take. You worry about malnourishing your child. You can’t be comforted by a hug, for fear of being sick. And sometimes you feel pressure to prove just how unwell you are: ‘how many times a day are you vomiting?’, ‘have you been hospitalised?’ I was happy I had managed to stay out of hospital, only just, and yet I often thought people might take me more seriously if I had been admitted.
There are hurtful comments: ‘I hope you aren’t taking anything for it’. Well-intentioned ones that make you feel desperately lonely: ‘you poor thing, put your feet up and watch TV’ (The movement and sound from a television would often make me feel worse). And ones that make you feel like you cannot complain: ‘at least you can get pregnant’. True, but something tells me women with pre-eclampsia or other medical complications don’t get told this. More seriously, for some women, HG leads to severe post-natal depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Was HG worth it for my daughter? Absolutely. But I still haven’t decided if I will save her cute little baby grows for a sibling.
If you or someone you know ever struggles with pregnancy sickness, please get help immediately. Treatment is more effective the earlier it is started. There are also some fantastic online forums where even in the dead of night strangers will come to your rescue with supportive words. Oh, and there are whole chat rooms dedicated to the most irritating HG comment of them all… have you tried ginger biscuits?”
If you are struggling with this then please know that we at 101mothers are sending you our love and here are some places that might be able to offer you some help and support…