When pregnancy is played out on television, a woman usually figures out she's pregnant by hilariously or comically "losing her lunch." In real life, however, no one is laughing when they're running to the bathroom in the middle of a work day to go throw up. Though it's frustrating, morning sickness is quite common among pregnant women. However, some women experience the more severe side of morning sickness, and deal with what's known as hyperemesis gravidarum. The struggles of having hyperemesis gravidarum are a lot like those that accompany morning sickness, only worse. A lot worse. Like, exponentially worse.
So what is hyperemesis gravidarum, exactly? Well, in medical terms "hyper" means "excessive," and "emesis" pertains to vomiting. Combined, they mean "excessive vomiting," which is exactly what a woman suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum does. While hyperemesis gravidarum only occurs in about 1 in every 200 pregnancies, that amounts to around 600,000 cases per year. Having struggled with it myself, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on hyperemesis gravidarum (obviously not an actual expert, but someone with an unfortunate amount of earned knowledge that I wish I didn't have but am "blessed" with, nonetheless). My first sign of my pregnancy occurred when I was unknowingly four weeks along. I was eating a plain bagel at work when I suddenly felt an intense wave of nausea come over me. I thought it was odd, since I was otherwise feeling fine, so when I went home, I took a pregnancy test. Not surprisingly, two pink lines gifted me with the news I had been hoping for. My excitement was unfortunately short lived, as the nausea soon returned, but this time, it decided to stick around.
Unlike morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum doesn't always go away. It can last throughout the entire duration of a woman's pregnancy. It can cause severe dehydration and even require extended hospital visits. In my own case, it stuck around for nearly six months. I spent six miserable months hating pregnancy because of the constant and intense urge to vomit I felt every single day. I understand the following ten struggles of hyperemesis gravidarum all too well, and if you're suffering from it too, well, I've been there and you're not alone and I feel for you.
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) makes it difficult to keep anything down, even water. As a result, women who suffer from HG might become dehydrated, which can pose some serious risks, like low amniotic fluid and preterm labor, to a pregnancy. Dehydration during pregnancy is something that needs to be treated immediately, so if you notice that your urine is darker than normal, or feel like you're overheating, go see your doctor.
When you can't really eat anything without immediately throwing back up, you're hungry all the time. Oddly enough, hunger is a trigger for many women who suffer from HG. When I was pregnant and sick, I had to eat exactly three crackers every hour or so to keep myself from throwing up. I was starving all the damn time, but nothing looked good, and even thinking about trying to eat sometimes made me feel sick. Most women who are pregnant get to enjoy eating, and many say that food never tasted better than when they were pregnant, but for women with HG, that's hardly the case.
I worked in the medical field when I was pregnant with my first son. I was in charge of wound care, casting, and splinting patients who had broken a bone or just had surgery. If you've never worked on the clinical side of the medical field, let me just tell you, there are a lot of unpleasant smells, especially when removing a cast from a teenage boy's foot and ankle. Pair those scents with the heightened sense of smell that accompanies pregnancy, and you basically have a perfect storm of vomit. I'm positive that my gagging offended quite a few patients, but I really had no control over it. Promise.
Nothing tastes good. Nothing sounds good. Nothing looks good, not even those food commercials that normally make you salivate. I had a diet of saltines and goldfish crackers with Sprite while I was pregnant, because even thinking about something more complex made me gag.
I was given medication to help prevent me from vomiting so much when I had HG, but that didn't keep me from feeling queasy all the time. When I wasn't throwing up, I was still having to actively fight the urge to throw up, like I was in a constant state of sea sickness.
When you're pregnant, you've already got a ton of routine visits to the doctor, but when you suffer from HG, you basically get a VIP parking pass at your doctor's office because you're there so much. I pretty much maxed out all of my paid time off before I started my maternity leave, because I was at the doctor all the damn time.
Every time I would run to the bathroom to throw up, I felt this immense wave of guilt wash over me. I knew that how I felt was out of my control, and that I was doing the best I could to have a healthy pregnancy, but I still felt like my baby was suffering because I was so sick. I could tolerate feeling sick all the time, but I couldn't tolerate the concern it made me feel for my baby's health.
I'm convinced that my desperation to save money for my maternity leave is what kept me working as much as I did, but outside of those hours, I was useless. I had a barf bucket in my car for my commute to and from work, and I had to pull over almost weekly on my way home to throw up and compose myself. When I would get home, I would immediately go to bed because I had maxed out every ounce of will power I had to get through the day. My poor husband waited on me hand and foot, and did everything for me while I was sick.
I hated my pregnancy. I was so excited when I found out I was pregnant, and I immediately started planning magnificent things for my family's future in my head. My excitement lasted for only a few days before it turned into complete and utter misery. Of course, this made me feel terribly guilty and, well, that didn't really make my situation any better.
When I had HG, it felt like time stood still. Pregnancy always feels like it's taking forever, but when you're extremely sick throughout the duration of it, it feels like it's never going to end. My HG started to subside around my sixth month of pregnancy, and I can't remember ever feeling more relief than I did when I was able to get through the day without throwing up. The good news is that HG, as well as pregnancy, doesn't last forever. I was eventually able to eat a full meal again, and when I was, I definitely made up for lost time. I devoured everything in my site because I was just so damn hungry. Having hyperemesis gravidarum is miserable, yes, but I would suffer through it all over again if I had to. In the end, it was part of a process that ended with my son.