I Had Severe Morning Sickness & It Was So Much Worse Than You Think

By
Share
Ad failed to load

Most people have heard of morning sickness, even if they've never been pregnant. I mean, it's pretty much the stereotypical early pregnancy symptom highlighted in movies and on television. We've all seen a pregnant person throw up once or twice and complain about feeling hungover, only to later find out they're knocked up. But I had severe morning sickness and it's nothing like the stereotypical depictions we've come to expect. Instead, it's much, much worse.

Don't get me wrong, I used to think morning sickness was no big deal, too. The first time I was pregnant, I had regular, run-of-the-mill morning sickness that seemed pretty par for the pregnancy course. I felt generally nauseated during my first trimester, unless I munched on crackers or sucked on lemon drops all day, but it wasn't anything debilitating. I threw up a couple of times, sure, and I was pretty miserable, yes, but I could still function. I remember complaining to my husband and friends about it, too, thinking this was more of an annoyance than an out-and-out problem. And with my limited first-person knowledge of morning sickness, I thought this experience was the worst of it. Spoiler alert: it wasn't.

My second pregnancy taught me how severe morning sickness can actually be. I had hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which the Hyperemesis Education and Research (HER) Foundation describes as, "unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids." That description really doesn't do it justice, though. Imagine being hungry all of the time, but not being able to keep anything down. For months. Then go ahead and add exhaustion, frustration, guilt, and a complete inability to function into the mix. Yep, that's more like it.

Ad failed to load

HG impacted all areas of my life. I had to care for my toddler, go to work, and try to function at a time when getting out of bed made me feel like I was going to die. I was pretty lucky, though, in that I had a great midwife who worked with me to find the right combination of medications, I.V. fluids, and safe foods to aid me in making it through what was arguably one of the worst times of my life. My friends, family, and co-workers were less than supportive about my "morning sickness," though.

"Oh, you're sick, again?" isn't a question someone needs to hear when they're dealing with uncontrollable nausea and vomiting.
Ad failed to load

Since those around me had a limited knowledge of morning sickness, let alone how horrible it could be, I heard so many condescending comments and obvious questions that seemed to only exacerbate the problem. For example, "Have you tried crackers?" is such an unnecessary question, especially when you hear it 10 times a day and often from the same person.

"Oh, you're sick, again?" isn't a question someone needs to hear when they're dealing with uncontrollable nausea and vomiting.

"Oh, it's just morning sickness?" is so condescending it's hard to respond in a way that doesn't highlight your rage. I mean, if a man threw up constantly for months, would the word "just" be used to describe his condition?

Ad failed to load

And then there was this horrible question: "Aren't you afraid those meds will cause birth defects?" Unless you are my doctor, please do me the kindness of shutting the hell up. Who says that? Who worries an already sick person with thoughts of further complications?

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

While most people talk about the physical side of HG, for me, the worst part of HG was how it made me feel emotionally. I felt so depressed and so alone and so misunderstood. Then I felt guilty for being depressed and alone and misunderstood when this pregnancy was one I had planned. I couldn't do most of the things I normally did to manage my mental health, like spend time with my friends, chase my daughter around, or exercise, which made my feelings all the more intense. Most days, I would end up lying on the bathroom floor, questioning my decision to get pregnant in the first place.

Ad failed to load
Most days, I would end up lying on the bathroom floor, questioning my decision to get pregnant in the first place.

Sadly, I know that I am not alone. A 2018 review published in the British Journal of Midwifery found that people with severe morning sickness often experience serious mental health impacts, including isolation, depression, thoughts of suicide, and terminating wanted pregnancies. These symptoms are felt both by people with HG (only about 1.5 percent of pregnant people), and by those who have severe nausea and vomiting but who aren't diagnosed with HG (about 30 percent). Which means that a lot of people trying to navigate the difficulties of the first trimester might not be getting the mental health care they need and deserve.

Ad failed to load

Similarly, a meta analysis of 59 studies published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that people with HG were significantly more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. The researchers behind both of these studies agreed that the medical community needs to do a better job of diagnosing severe morning sickness, and offering psychiatric care to pregnant people. Which sounds great, but honestly, between the stigma of feeling like you are over-reacting to something that's supposed to be a "normal" part of pregnancy, and the stigma of asking for help with your mental health, that can be really hard to do.

When my husband and I decided to try to conceive another baby, I was understandably afraid that I would get HG again. I honestly didn't think I could survive another HG pregnancy. Between my older two kids and his older two kids, our life was busy. I couldn't afford to lose my job or not be able to care for our kids. In the end, our desire to have another child won. Unfortunately, I got HG again, and it was even worse than before. Even though my pregnancy was planned, and I love my baby more than just about anything, there were days when I just wanted to die. And even now, to this day and now that my baby is 1-year-old, I am ashamed to admit that.

I think it's time that we changed the way we collectively talk about morning sickness so people take it seriously and get treatment right away for their nausea and also for their mental health, too.
Ad failed to load

This time, though, I knew what I was in for. I knew that in order to make it, I needed to be honest with my provider, get medicated early, stay hydrated, and get some damn help for my mental health. I was so much worse off physically — I vomited several times a day, couldn't keep anything down for days at a time, was sensitive to light and smells, got dangerously dehydrated, and lost quite a bit of weight. This time, though, I bluntly told my OB-GYN how depressed and isolated I felt. She prescribed an anti-depressant that helped tremendously and, in the end, probably saved my life.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

I survived. A few weeks after my son was born, I got my tubes tied. I don't want to risk ever getting pregnant again. It's not worth it. It's been a year since my baby was born, and I almost can't remember how bad it was. Almost. Every time I feel the least bit nauseous, it all comes back to me and I take three pregnancy tests, just in case. I survived HG, but I almost didn't. I think it's time that we changed the way we collectively talk about morning sickness so people take it seriously and get treatment right away for their nausea and also for their mental health, too.

Ad failed to load

If you have severe morning sickness or HG, you don't have to suffer alone. Your mental health matters, too. Visit the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation for info and support.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

6 Early Signs You're Going To Have A Short Labor, According To Experts

As far as I'm concerned, a short labor is right up there with winning the lottery in terms of lucky life events. (And when I was actually in labor, I would absolutely have traded a bucketful of lottery winnings for a speedier birth.) While some women…
By Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In March

You can always count on Netflix to keep it fresh: though there are already so many movies and shows to choose from, every month there's an influx of new content to keep your entire family entertained. As February enters its final weeks, it's time to …
By Megan Walsh

Here Are 10 Ways To Boost Your Baby's Immunity To The Flu

As I'm sure you've read in the thousands upon thousands of articles written about it this winter, the flu is spreading like wildfire and it's bad. Really bad. This strand of flu is the worst we've had in a very long time and it's the most widespread,…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Khloé Kardashian Asked Twitter About Her Bump, & Moms Totally Delivered

Like her younger sister Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian managed to keep most of her pregnancy a sort-of secret. But unlike Jenner, Kardashian chose to publicly announce her pregnancy several months before the baby's due date. While there's no wrong wa…
By Sophie Hirsh

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

An Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the t…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack