With the recent news of Kate Middleton’s new pregnancy, and resulting hospitalization, you’ve probably now heard of a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. But you might still be left with questions about exactly what that is. Mainstream news reports continually downplay her situation and pass off incorrect information.
As a person who has now experienced two pregnancies with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG from here on out), I’m here to tell you what it is, why it’s not “just morning sickness” and what you can do if you think you have it or know someone who does. It’s important to understand that HG is a serious condition, and if left untreated, can take lives.
HG is nothing new. Charlotte Bronte, the author of the book Jane Eyre, is believed to have died from complications due to HG in 1855. As far back as morning sickness is documented, severe cases believed to be HG have also been documented. It’s rare, it’s not medically understood fully and it’s terrible. You simply do not know what HG is like unless you have experienced it. It’s believed that somewhere between .3% and 2% of pregnant women experience HG.
So what is HG, then?
HG is excessive vomiting beginning in early pregnancy (five weeks, and sometimes sooner) and lasting sometimes until delivery. A woman with HG will also experience metabolic disturbances that are not seen in women with morning sickness. Currently, there is no “cure” for HG, just recommended treatment. For many women, like myself, nothing works at all. And in the toughest cases, women can lose their unborn babies, or their own lives. HG is so painful and can make you so sick, that some women will opt to abort rather than suffer. These are tough decisions, and are sometimes a matter of life or death for the mother and may be medically necessary.
How do you know if you have a bad case of morning sickness or HG? What’s the difference? At first, it can be tough to tell. You might start out just feeling nauseated, and that is common in pregnancy. But things will probably get worse, and fast.
A woman with HG may:
- vomit 20 or more times per day
- have to be taken off work and placed on disability
- lose excessive amounts of weight quickly
- not be able to eat any solid foods
- saltines, ginger ale and sea bands won’t help
- her lab work will show metabolic disturbances (for example, low potassium)
- her hCG levels may be excessively high, yet she is not carrying twins
- experience severe dehydration
- not be able to hold down water
- usual medications, such as anti emetics (zofran, etc.) may have little to no effect
- not be able to care for herself (shower, brush her teeth, change clothing etc.)
It is important to mention that this is not simply “in her head” as some doctors may believe. A person with HG can’t just “tough it out”. She isn’t being a wimp, or overly dramatic. Being treated as if she is making it all up can compound the situation by leading to depression. HG is painful, it is serious, and it can kill her. It should be treated as such.
What can you do to help a woman with HG?
- Most importantly, listen to her. Be her shoulder. It’s scary and hard to deal with HG, and you can feel extremely isolated. Make sure she knows you’re there.
- Help her with her other children (if she has any).
- Offer to help wash her hair.
- Bring her family food if she can’t cook.
- Be her voice. If you see she needs medical attention, but isn’t getting it, speak up for her. If she needs to find a new doctor, help her make calls.
- Help drive her to her appointments. Malnutrition can make muscles weak, which means she may not be able to drive.
- Hire a maid to help clean the house, or offer to do it yourself.
- Ask if she needs you to mail off any bills or important documents. She may not be able to fill things out.
If you have HG, what should you do?
- Make sure you seek medical attention early on. Early treatment seems to be key in keeping HG from getting to a dangerous point.
- Request to see your labs and make sure you are treated for everything. Nurses may over look things because other factors are fine. Nothing should be overlooked.
- If you don’t feel your doctor is treating you properly, seek a new one. If you can’t make the calls yourself, ask someone to do it for you.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Keep a daily diary (or have someone write it for you) of what you ate, how many times you threw up, your bowel movements and your urine output. This will be essential information for your doctor, and dates are important.
Those are basic tips from my own experience. More in-depth information can be found on the website Help HER Hyperemesis research foundation. And remember, if you are suffering from HG, you are not alone!
Today’s post comes from our friend Rebekah at Bex Built A Family. Rebekah is a mother of one who works out side of the home full time. We she isn’t at work, she enjoys cooking and gardening, and she isn’t half bad with a crochet hook or knitting needles. She looks forward to warm weather so she she can take her family out for fun adventures like camping and hiking. Basically, she doesn’t sit still. A funny quirk about her, she has a strange aversion to glitter. As busy as she is, she still makes time for her other favorite pass-time, blogging for her website Bex Built A Family.