8 Tips to Survive Hyperemesis Gravidarum (and it’s not ginger)
While I was holding the blue pee stick between my fingers, I couldn’t believe that I was going to be a mother. We had been trying for so long, I had almost given up on the dream of carrying my own little baby.
But there it was, the positive test!
The happiness and the awe lasted for approximately 20 seconds before being completely taken over by fears and doubts. My mind went into overdrive, and in a matter of minutes, I had planned out my entire pregnancy.
I was going to be fit and healthy. I was planning to take all the necessary multivitamins and indulge in endless plates of kale and sweet potato salad. I was going to travel for three weeks with my lovely husband, work until the very last month, and take on more subjects at school in anticipation of the years to come.
I was pumped up, super organised, and slightly stressed already. How could I ever fit such a wanted child into our extremely busy routine?
Little did I know that my body had already decided to slow me down; after the first 2 weeks of my new life, I started feeling a small wave of nausea. I clearly remember sitting in a Naturopath clinic, staring at the rubbish bin with the idea of hugging it all the way home. Because I had never felt nauseous before, and because everyone talked about morning sickness, I didn’t worry straight away, and I kept on living my normal life for another week or so. After that, I had to give up. Leaving my bed was no longer an option, as all my energy was taken away by the strongest nausea, followed by constant, violent, all-day vomiting. Our little tiny lentil had already turned our lives upside down.
Hyperemesis gravid arum (HG) is a pregnancy complication that is characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, and it’s considered much more severe than morning sickness. Some theories concerning the cause of hyperemesis gravid arum include pregnancy hormone imbalances, vitamin B deficiency; hyperthyroidism; gastroesophageal reflux , but the real cause is still unknown.
While nausea and vomiting of pregnancy in general is estimated to occur in 50 to 90 percent of all pregnancies, hyperemesis gravidarum is estimated to occur in .5 to two percent of pregnant women.
What followed next was a tragic story of 32 weeks spent staring at the ceiling, praying for the agony to end. I lost 10 kilos, stopped eating and drinking, and I ended up thinking the worst thoughts. Looking back now, I realise I wasn’t a bad person, I was simply lost in fear and pain.
There are a few things I learned along the way, and I hope they will make a difference to the women out there going through the same journey:
First and foremost, it will end. You will seriously get better. Some women recover after the first 12 weeks, others aren’t that lucky and they need to hold onto their hopes for a little bit longer. Don’t worry, you will eventually gain your life back, even though it seems impossible now.
Don’t force yourself and keep all judgments at bay. If your house is a mess if you can’t go to work, and if your husband and children are surviving on takeaways, so be it. If the only thing you can do is binge-watch Netflix, it is perfectly ok. Anything that can take your mind away, even for a second. Don’t shower if you don’t want to, don’t brush your teeth if it makes you feel sick; you are not less worthy because of it, you simply have different, and more important, priorities for the time being.
Water made me gag… for 5 months in a row! During the first 8 weeks, I survived on Diet Coke. I felt so guilty that I almost stopped drinking it, but it would have been my worst mistake ever. I obviously recommend that you enjoy healthier beverages, such as decaf tea, water with lemon, coconut water, and so on, but first and foremost, it is paramount to keep hydrated. If you struggle to keep liquids down, talk to your GP or midwife, as dehydration can lead to dizziness, tachycardia, and a whole lot of other nasty symptoms.
Choose your foods
Don’t listen to the hype! Eat when you can, what you can, if you can. Opt for bland, dry foods, such as crackers, and have small and frequent meals. Hydralyte’s Ice Blocks can help you reach the RDI for sodium and potassium whenever you don’t feel like leaving the bedroom. The best news is that you and your baby will survive and will eventually thrive in the near future.
It is also important to stop focusing on eating healthy during pregnancy if you don’t feel like doing so. I craved white processed sugar, white bread, and jam. I obviously knew it wasn’t the best choice, but it was an option, nonetheless.
Some women swear by ginger: ginger tea, ginger ale, ginger candies. It didn’t work for me, but it is always worth a try.
Ask for help
People love to help. It took me a while to accept it, but when I let go of my independent-woman-preconceptions, my life became so much easier. It can be as simple as asking for grocery shopping, a book, or a car lift. Friends and loved ones also bring positive energy into the household, and you should binge on it.
Forums for mums-to-be can also provide support during the hardest moments, and they normally come with great tips.
People don’t always get it
I got seriously frustrated when talking to some doctors. They didn’t make me feel safe and they didn’t have precise answers. Everyone seemed to be so relaxed about my situation, while my body was depleted and my mind was crumbling. I understood it afterward, that nausea and vomiting in pregnancy are so unpredictable that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Trust your body, you will get to the finish line.
Share your thoughts with your partner
While you are alternately vegetating on the couch and in the bedroom, complaining about the world around you, your partner is sitting in the corner feeling helpless, preoccupied, and possibly, very lonely. Don’t forget about the people around you, and save a smile and an encouraging word for them (if you can muster it). You are on the same ride and you are both suffering, although in different ways.
Keep your eyes on the prize
At the end of this agony, or shortly afterward, you will get to meet your baby. Whenever you can connect with your belly, breathe and meditate on that little ray of sunshine growing inside you.
Remain focused on the outcome, and be brave, be strong, and be positive.