Coping with hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme morning sickness)


 hyperemesis gravidarum

[Shared by Mums Make Lists]

I have posted previously on tips for morning sickness and so when a newly pregnant friend started to suffer from it I confidently handed over my list of suggestions.  I can’t believe my naivety.  I had absolutely no comprehension of what she was going through because this wasn’t the common or garden morning sickness that many of us suffered from but extreme morning sickness – hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) – which is dangerous and totally debilitating.

I have been really horrified by how much my friend has suffered and how she has struggled to find help for what she is going through.  This post is just trying to highlight the condition, spread the word and provide signposts to organisations who can help so that any new mum-to-be experiencing the same can get immediate diagnosis and help.  Even if the post doesn’t seem relevant to you please do share to increase awareness and improve medical support.

The first thing to say is that HG can be life threatening if untreated; it’s what Charlotte Bronte died of when she was 4 months pregnant.  The key symptoms are:

  • Near constant acute nausea
  • Inability to eat or drink without severe vomitng
  • Vomiting triggered by movement and smells
  • Severe dehydration
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Fainting

The dehydration is typically so acute that mums-to-be with HG will need frequent admission to hospital for intravenous rehydration and will be unable to work or to look after themselves or their family.  Unlike typical morning sickness, HG usually lasts way into the 2nd trimester and often into the 3rd.  Severe depression and anxiety triggered by complete exhaustion is very common and tragically many mums-to-be contemplate ending their pregnancy and some feel that they have no option but to do so.

There are some medical treatments, (particularly Ondansetron / Zofran), that can help but mums or rather their families need to be very well armed with as much information as possible to navigate their way through midwives and doctors who don’t understand the condition and who may be reticent to prescribe or keep prescribing because the drugs are very expensive.

From what I have seen, it’s really critical to get immediate support for mums-to-be and their families as soon as the symptoms appear.  Pregnancy Sickness Support is a campaigning and support group in the UK who can provide help and have an active group on Facebook in which mothers can share their experiences.  Babycentre also has an active group and the US support group HER Foundation has some excellent resources including the Help HER Survival Guide.

Medical treatment does seem to be critical so keep pushing if you’re not getting it.  In addition some of the following may provide some small additional relief:

  • Sleep & rest with head propped up but not bolt upright
  • Eat very non-acidic food e.g. yoghurt, lentils, potatoes, banana
  • Eat cold food – smell of food cooking triggers nausea
  • Suck ice cubes – of water or juice if can’t face drinking liquids
  • Drink through straw – if drinking makes you nauseous
  • Keep any food you can eat to hand – so can eat immediately in small windows of hunger
  • Don’t eat & drink at the same time
  • Carry emergency sick kit – nappy bags, wipes etc
  • Suck small sweets
  • Avoid any strong smells – e.g. perfume, cleaning materials
  • Sleep on your own – your partner’s natural odour may trigger an attack
  • Get someone else to do laundry / cleaning – fragrances often trigger attack

My fellow blogger Contented Little Mummy  has written a guest post on her personal experience of HG and you might also be interested in the following bloggers who have suffered with the condition:

The Family Patch

Diary of a first child

HG Survivor

The Family Patch

Sally Whittle is founder of the Tots100, Foodies100, BlogSummit and the MAD Blog Awards. When she's not working, she can be found blogging at Who's the Mummy, or having fun with her 8 year old daughter, Flea.

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