I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), also known as the Princess Kate Puke disease, when I was eight weeks pregnant with my son. I couldn't keep anything down. Eventually, this led to hospitalizations, IV nutrition, and many anti-emetics. Fortunately, most of my worst physical ailments ended with delivery, but the fun doesn't stop there. Those who have suffered like me may wonder how the condition affects them once their baby is born. What does hyperemesis gravidarum do to your body postpartum? Let me tell you, it gets way better, but it's by no means perfect.
Hyperemesis is unabated, extremely persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy according to the HER (Hyperemesis Education and Research) Foundation. It carries with it the co-morbidities of weight loss, dental decay, tempero-mandibular joint disorders, gall bladder disease, and depression. For me, it was an albatross that hung about my neck the entirety of my pregnancy, and the bite marks it left behind still occasionally fester.
But the HER Foundation noted that not all of the effects of the disorder are physiological. There are acute and chronic problems that develop with hyperemesis, and last long after the pregnancy is over. For instance, there is often a real, financial burden carried by women afflicted with this disease. According to HER Foundation website, up to 68 percent of women will go on sick leave at some point during their pregnancy and 78 percent of women will lose paid work hours — 62 hours on average. If you're making $22 per hour, that's over $1300 lost pay on top of your ostensibly unpaid maternity leave if you live in the United States where maternity and family leave pay isn't guaranteed by law.
Those fiscal effects can be felt long after you have the baby. I've spoken to many women who felt especially penalized at their place of work because of the time they had to take off. A close friend of mine was even told at one point by a co-worker that she shouldn't get pregnant again if she ever wanted to get promoted. With the illness and this anxiety, it's no wonder that many women who suffered from hyperemesis during their pregnancy, experience a form of post-traumatic stress disorder postpartum, according to a study completed by the University of California, Los Angeles.
I spoke with family practitioner, Edith Nadal, MD, of New York, and asked her what the long term complications of hyperemesis are, and if there's any way to predict or avoid them. She tells Romper, "Unfortunately, there's not a great way of predicting or avoiding what happens to women who suffer from HG. Some women will experience nausea or reflux for days, weeks, or months after they give birth. Some women will have bone density issues that take months to resolve." She says that many women who had HG during pregnancy may feel a sense of extreme anxiety about pregnancy and the chances of getting pregnant because it's just not something they want to go through again.
"The most common issues are hair loss, dental decay, and TMJ disorders. If you've spent nine months unable to take in adequate nutrition and you've been vomiting acid and bile daily, it takes a toll on the delicate enamel of the teeth and strains the muscles of the jaw." She's not kidding. My husband says you can hear my jaw crack from across the room. It's freaky. Also, I've spent thousands of dollars on expensive dental reconstruction after two pregnancies wherein I threw up upwards of six times per day.
Honestly, sometimes, the thought of getting pregnant makes me break out in hives or lose my breath. It seems an extreme reaction to nausea and vomiting, but it's relentless. I didn't feel like myself — hell, I didn't feel human. Even on the "good" days, when I was able to eat something or on days where I received intravenous nutrition, I still felt weak and tired, and that didn't abate for months after having my children. Regaining my strength was a long, laborious process that I cannot imagine going through again. Yes, I'm so glad I had my children, but for me, HG made the process miserable and did a number on my body. It's not something I'm anxious to repeat.
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