The first trimester is a crazy ride because you find out you’re pregnant, you’re thrilled, and then you find yourself hovering over a toilet at five in the morning dry heaving. If you are anything like me, your dry heaving will turn into something much worse, something with a scary sounding name called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).
HG is when pregnant women experience severe nausea and vomiting which often leads to dehydration and weight loss. HG reportedly impacts less than 3% of pregnant women, however, just like when I read fertility statistics, I think the percentage has to be higher because in my small circle I know several women who have experienced it. Even Princess Kate has suffered from it (and no, unfortunately, she isn’t in my small circle). Nobody knows exactly what causes it, but the popular opinion is that it is due to hormones and may have a genetic link. Having gone through HG with both my kids (yes, I got pregnant again because time somehow makes it seem not as bad as it really was), here are my tips for how to cope.
Call it by its name.
Don’t call it morning sickness, because it’s not. Comparing morning sickness to Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is like comparing sadness to depression. They are two very different things, even though they do have a little in common. By telling people you have Hyperemesis Gravidarum and explaining what it is, it helps educate others that this is a real illness that can be very debilitating. The HER Foundation is a great resource to share to inform others about the condition.
Find a medical team that gets Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
I’ve read some horrible stories online of people suffering from HG who got little to no help from their OBGYN or midwife. There are many people in the medical community who do understand HG, if that isn’t your current provider, find a different one. You need a team of people who will monitor your physical and mental health, as depression and anxiety are common. I’m grateful I got the medical support I needed from people who understood the realities of the illness. You need people who will help you find solutions and will celebrate the small victories with you, like the fact that you were able to eat a malt.
Accept help because HG sucks.
You are growing a baby while battling what feels like a never-ending case of stomach flu, you are going to need help. At only seven weeks pregnant my husband and I decided to tell our family, friends, and co-workers that we were expecting. We knew that we were going to need help and it seemed easier to be up front with those closest to us as to what we were dealing with. This made it so much easier to ask a co-worker to cover a presentation for me, for my husband to leave work a little early to do daycare pickup, and for my sister and mom to step in to take care of our daughter. I know deciding when to tell people you are pregnant is a very personal decision, but I can say, I’m glad we shared our news early.
When you have good days, don’t over do it. I learned this the hard way when one morning I was feeling okay so declined the childcare that was offered to me so I could hang out with my daughter. Well, I paid the price for overexerting myself by feeling horrible for the next two days. It is so hard to not be able to do the normal everyday things, like cleaning (well, I actually was okay with that), cooking, going to work, taking the dog for a walk, and playing with your kids. But, you have to remember that you are battling an illness and so you need to rest as much as you can.
Try a variety of remedies.
With my first pregnancy I tried a medication called Zofran, and that, combined with a crazy amount of sour patch kids and acupuncture, got me through my first trimester. My second pregnancy was a lot worse, which I honestly didn’t think was possible. I had to visit the ER twice for IVs and eventually had to get in-home nursing care to get a Zofran pump. Every pregnancy is different and every woman is different, so if something doesn’t work, try something else. This goes for food too, you are going to have to try different foods to see what you can keep down. My doctor said to eat whatever sounded good to me, which for me was baked potatoes and ice cream (but not together).
HG sucks, it is really hard to cope with and you’ll have days and moments where you are angry, frustrated, and sad. This is totally normal. In my darkest moments, I would try to focus on the positive: this is temporary, at the end of this I’ll have a baby, I am lucky to have help and a supportive work environment. One night when I was feeling completely lousy and sulking in bed, my husband brought my daughter to me so she could say goodnight. She gave me a big hug and said, “night night mama, feel better soon.” I immediately had tears streaming down my face, she gave me such a gift of reminding me that it would all be worth it.