This post was originally featured on our blog in 2014. We’re resharing it because it provides an authentic look at how difficult hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) can be for mothers. Written by Diana Johnston, a survivor of multiple hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) pregnancies and an author who runs her own blog, this blog is a powerful way to help family and friends understand how HG has affected you.
There are many definitions of hyperemesis gravidarum, the extreme form of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Production of ketones, rapid weight loss, need for IV hydration, loss of ability to perform daily functions, etc. The medical definitions are endless.
But what is hyperemesis gravidarum like for the mother – the one experiencing this fearsome condition?
Here are three things that come to mind when I reflect on my experience:
Hyperemesis was the most frightening experience of my life. It is a feeling of losing control of one’s body, of slipping further and further into a deep pit of physical agony, of not knowing what is happening and not being able to do anything to stop the slide. While I expected to experience morning sickness, the terror that comes from hyperemesis gravidarum was an overwhelming and sickening wave of fear that grew and grew and didn’t stop. I have never been so scared in my life, and that is a common reaction during hyperemesis.
Most women have experienced some form of morning sickness. Thus, the hyperemetic woman is surrounded by mothers who tell her confidently, “I know just what you’re going through!”
But they don’t. And usually, their statement of “I know just what you’re going through!” is followed up by something along the lines of:
“I was so nauseated I couldn’t eat bacon for six weeks!”
“I was so sick I actually threw up once!”
“I felt so badly I could only cook Hamburger Helper for dinner!”
The hyperemetic woman realizes quickly that she is very alone, because most people simply do not and cannot understand what she is experiencing or the seriousness of it. She receives a lot of good-natured jokes about morning sickness, and oftentimes comments of a more negative nature that rebuke her for being “lazy” or “self-centered,” or which blame her for her condition:
“You really need to eat more. You’re going to hurt your baby.”
“Just try some ginger and dry crackers. That took care of my morning sickness.”
“Just go for a brisk walk! There’s nothing wrong with you! It’s all in your head!”
In more serious cases, a woman may be recommended for psychiatric evaluation by a physician who feels that she is “making the whole thing up.” She may be shunned or ignored by family members who think she is throwing a pity party. A woman also may begin to doubt herself, thinking that she truly is mentally unbalanced or that she is just lazy because she cannot handle what others say they handled so easily.
Additionally, on a purely physical note, a hyperemetic woman is isolated simply because in many cases she cannot leave her home. Normal routines, such as family outings, church, women’s studies, date nights, etc., all go out the window while she is at home focusing on survival and unable to continue her normal life. Friendships often suffer, as do marriages.
The emotional toll of hyperemesis gravidarum does not end with birth. Most women are left with scars that stay with them for life. Most post-HG women suffer from triggers and flashbacks, from overwhelming fears, from various symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
For myself, I was left with many wounds. I had constant mini-panic attacks when I encountered (or even thought of) HG triggers. I had an intense fear of pregnancy, of nausea, and of anything that caused nausea (stomach bugs, etc.). And I experienced an intense spiritual fall-out that damaged my relationship with God for many years.
Healing from hyperemesis takes quite a bit of time – both physically and emotionally/spiritually. For me, the physical recovery took about two years, while the emotional and spiritual recovery took approximately six years. It was a slow process on both fronts.
If you are a woman who is experiencing (or has experienced) hyperemesis gravidarum, there is hope. There are wonderful online forums and Facebook groups for support and research, and there are many women out there doing research into the prevention and treatment of HG. Find these resources and tap into the energy of so many women who have been where you are and who can offer the support that otherwise might not be there. You are not alone.
We’d like to remind our customers that Pink Stork is also a community for you if you’re suffering from HG (or anything else)! We have a vibrant Facebook community of strong women supporting each other called PS Life. And we’re here whenever you need us. Just call 904-830-5396 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.