Mind, Body, Health: Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Posted on July 11 2019
Welcome! For our very first topic I would like to discuss Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or HG, which is fitting following last month’s Hyperemesis Gravidarum awareness efforts. The topic is also near and dear to my heart. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a debilitating and potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease marked by rapid weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration due to unrelenting nausea and/or vomiting with potential adverse consequences for the mom-to-be and the newborn(s). (More info here www.helpher.org)
I happen to be a 10 time survivor of HG. I am currently expecting baby #8 and have also suffered with HG two other times that ended in miscarriages.
I have had varying degrees of HG but my worst was with my very first baby. I was a teen mom, only 16 years old, and no one could tell me what was wrong. I was vomiting countless times a day, and dropped to 72 lbs at my lowest. The term HG was not around. It took until baby #3 to be officially diagnosed. With baby #1 I gave myself shots of vitamins and was on an oral anti-nausea drug that did nothing. For a long while my doctors were unsure of what the outcome would be for me and my baby. Thankfully I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. I left this pregnancy with severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress.
Baby #2: One of my easier HG pregnancies, but still the anti-nausea meds barely got me through the day.
Baby #3: This is the pregnancy that really changed everything. After 22 weeks of non-stop vomiting up to 20 times a day, along with losing weight and having blood in my urine due to kidney stones my doctor (a different one than I’d had previously) finally admitted me to the hospital for 4 days and diagnosed me with HG.
To know after all these years that this had a name and diagnosis was earth shattering.
I left this hospital stay with more meds and a PICC line. The PICC line was used to give me IV fluids twice daily. At one point it was TPN and I was fed through this line as well. I would have my home nurse come and change the dressing every few days. At 37 weeks I had another healthy baby.
Baby #4: We all knew that the chances of HG coming back to rear its ugly head was highly likely so I was given meds as soon as we found out we were pregnant, and by 9 weeks I had yet another PICC line. This was a bit different though because baby #3 was only 8 months at the time. I had it my whole pregnancy. Thankfully I had another healthy baby.
Baby #5: I felt this pregnancy was a bit different. HG didn’t creep in until almost 6 weeks, whereas the others were sooner. I was on meds, but by 13 weeks ended up with a Zofran pump (I am aware of Zofran and possible issues it may cause). I would need to stick myself with a needle in my stomach twice daily to receive the medication. This helped for this pregnancy and no PICC line YAY! I had another healthy baby!
Baby #6: This was a tough one from the very start. I was sick before the double lines said I was pregnant. PICC line was placed by 6-7 weeks. With the 3 littles running around it was definitely a challenge to have a PICC line and stay hooked up for hours two times a day.
This was also my only GD baby as well. To say that it threw a monkey-wrench into the mix is a vast understatement. In the end my sugars could not be controlled a lot having to do with the HG and I was induced at exactly 37 weeks. Thankfully this baby was healthy and ok!
Baby#7: This was actually my easiest HG pregnancy. It started off not as intense as the others. I still needed meds to function and by 16 weeks most of my days were fluffy until hormone surges and third trimester. She is my homebirth baby with transfer. I will talk more in depth about this situation at a later date. She is now a healthy thriving 16 month old.
Baby #8: I’m currently in the throes of miserable HG. If it were not for my husband honestly I’m not sure what I would do. The nausea is so bad at times I am bed ridden. It is debilitating. I cannot leave the house for lengths of time. When I do I time is all scheduled around my meds.
With my two losses I was sick for months as well, with no baby in the end. I will also speak more about this at a later date. A miscarriage a stillbirth and early infant death is something that should be spoken about as well.
I wanted to share a glimpse into my life with HG. No one realizes how dark and isolating it can be at times to feel and be this sick day in and day out. There are times you are getting by minute by minute as hour by hour is just too far a goal to reach. The depression that can surround HG is very real.
Honestly there are many times I can barely talk since talking can trigger the gag reflex, and next thing you know you are recreating that scene from The Exorcist in front of someone. Better yet, once you have had a few kids, sometimes you sneeze and will pee a bit; but with HG you vomit and pee all over yourself.
You have no dignity left with HG. You throw up in bags while driving. You run out of stores especially grocery store due to smells triggering you throwing up.
For me this is where my husband comes in he is now the grocery shopper happily after seeing what HG does. I find I have a heightened sensitivity this time with baby #8. Most music annoys me; I like it so low you can barely hear it. Bright lights bother me.
Here is the kicker. You and your baby survive HG but it never really leaves. After the baby you may find there are triggers and flashbacks. With one of my babies my HG lasted 4 weeks after birth.The Movie Frozen is a huge trigger for me because when I was pregnant in 2014 my girls were obsessed while HG kicked my ass. Now that movie or any songs from it are a huge no no for me.
Women with HG are often told it’s morning sickness and made to suffer in silence. They are given seasickness bands, crackers, and ginger ale. There are so many health professional that do not know or understand HG and give out misinformation.
There are moms who have esophagus issues, or rotting teeth, and some who have had to terminate due to the severity of the many other issues HG causes. All of these women are brave strong and survivors.
I am thankful for the celebrity women, such as Duchess of Cambridge Kate and Amy Schumer have brought attention to HG, it is a step in the right direction. But more research needs to be done.
Currently Dr. Marlena Fejzo of UCLA is conducting some of the newest research. Dr. Fejzo has had some break through studies. A new study has identified two genes associated with hyperemesis gravidarum, whose cause has not been determined in previous studies. The genes, known as GDF15 and IGFBP7, are both involved in the development of the placenta and play important roles in early pregnancy and appetite regulation. Check out the links below if you want to read more.
If you know or suspect someone may have HG please send them to this website. Helpher.org.
This is very important. Unfortunately there have been cases where HG has taken the woman’s life and other cases where the baby did not survive or was very premature.
I’d love to leave you with some artwork done by some incredible HG survivors. One of these artists is . Check here out here.
Author Kathleen Garcia has been a mom for over 24 yrs with 7 kids and one on the way with an amazing husband always by her side Doula for over 20 yrs now! Postpartum Doula, Bereavement Doula, Certified Professional Doula Trainer, Breastfeeding specialist, Evidence Based Birth® Instructor, and Babywearing Educator. Kathleen@2Lambie.com