“Have You Tried Ginger?” And Other Things Not To Say To A Hyperemesis Gravidarum Sufferer

Buckingham Palace this week announced that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with her second baby, and that she is again suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or extreme morning sickness. If it was just the first part of that sentence, I’d say, “oh, that’s nice” and move on with my life, but with the announcement of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, my interest and empathy thoroughly perk up!Hyperemesis Gravidarum

In her first pregnancy, I found the plethora of comments about how she just had to suck it up, how she was ‘delicate’ and other disparaging remarks quite upsetting, as someone who had suffered from the same condition but now I just look at them as signs of ignorance. Honestly people, if you haven’t suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, don’t comment on it. As simple as that. Especially not if you want to say one of these things, because there are some things that you should never say to someone who suffers from HG.

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Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Aftermath

When you’ve survived Hyperemesis Gravidarum, you hold your baby and thank God that you made it, and that your baby made it, and that you’re both  alive. You survived. Then you kind of forget about it, or try to, at least, while you get on with feeding your baby, changing her and learning to be a mother. You kind of assume that Hyperemesis Gravidarum is gone, and you hope that that’s the end of it.

I did, both times.

And for Ameli it was. She’s suffered no ill fate from this ghastly condition. I assumed the same would be true for her sister, born two and a half years later. But things were different. During my pregnancy with her I was already running on depleted supplies, and the sickness was worse, and when I started throwing up blood at 10 weeks, I went on medication because by 12 I couldn’t get out of bed without fainting. That’s not an ideal way to look after an almost two year old.

The medication I was on – Ondansetron, also known as Zofran – wasn’t specifically tested in pregnancy and my doctor wasn’t happy about giving it to me, but I showed him information about it being used for Hyperemesis Gravidarum in the US, and he agreed. He prescribed three tablets a day, but I took one in the morning so that I could eat something at least, which would carry me through the day. Anecdotal evidence mentioned incidence of deformities and I didn’t want to take any chances.

Aviya was born at home in water at 42+5, a perfect baby girl.

At 10 months and 8 days she rolled off a bed, but seemed okay. She was a bit cranky for a few days and cried whenever we tried to pick her up, but on investigation she seemed totally fine. (My mother is a remote areas nurse practitioner, and my brother is a medical student, so they should know.)  At 10 months and 10 days she took her first step on Christmas day, but even so… something wan’t right.

I finally took her to Perth’s Children’s Hospital where they said that she had broken something – her clavicle or scapula, I can never remember. We treated it, and went about our business. After all, we were in Perth for my mother, who was dying of cancer.  I never thought much of it again, only fearing for Aviya’s health whenever my mother commented on a blue ring around her mouth, saying that I had to get her heart checked out when I got back to England.

Months passed, we found ourselves back in England, trying to find a normal life again. Ameli started back at  nursery, Aviya was running around, engaging in the world, doing the things that one year’s olds do. Her first tooth appeared, and then her second tooth appeared and as happens with these things, so did her third and fourth. Our girl was doing great.  Until one day I had a piercing pain in my nipple as she tried to nurse!

Her tooth had chipped! No, not chipped broken! It looked like a vampire fang! I felt awful! How could I not have noticed a fall that did that to her tooth! We went to the dentist and had it filed down, a traumatic experience for her, for sure.  Not a week later, guess what? Her second tooth did the same. Broken! I was glad her arm had broken in Australia and not England. At least there’s no medical record of it here. I mean, a broken bone and two broken teeth? I know what I’d be thinking.

Well, we took her to the dentist again, and again with the third tooth and again for the fourth. And again, and again. It was only when we discovered two abscesses in her mouth that the dental staff started to take it very seriously. They were going to put her on a waiting list for our area’s special care unit, but an hour later I got a call to say they were going to  transfer her to a hospital in London to be seen sooner.

Then the guilt sets in. The dentist said I should stop breastfeeding because that’s what’s causing the tooth decay (but not for the other teeth in her mouth?) Clearly, I’ll not be taking the advice to wean.

We brush her teeth, but probably not long enough.

Maybe I feed her the wrong things.

But no.

A bit of reading, and it turn out that – anecdotally of course – HG babies often have weaker enamel on their first four teeth due to malnutrition in the mother (or something like that).  She loses these teeth now, but her adult teeth should be fine. With removing them, however, there may be problems with her teeth descending as the ‘tunnel’ for them isn’t there. So she won’t lose her front teeth either. There’ll be nothing for the memory box.

But there’s maybe more.

While reading about all this, I found something else, slightly more alarming: again anecdotally, of course, but there are a number of babies who had  Ondansetron/Zofran who also developed heart problems – thinking about my mother’s comments about the blue ring.

Well. Nothing’s proven. But it’s a worry.

So my little girl has her first ever course of antibiotics for the abscesses. 

And we wait.

We wait for the GP appointment for the referral for the scan or whatever they do for her heart. Then we wait for the referral for her dental surgery. Then we wait and see what else life throws our way.

And whatever else Hyperemesis Gravidarum takes.

Did you have Hyperemesis Gravidarum? How has it affected your child or your life since having a child?

It’s The Small Things

Actually, it’s not a small thing at all. It’s a big thing, a massive thing.  With a 6kg dry and 9kg wet capacity.

Remember last week, when I told you about Hyperemesis Gravidarum and how sick water was making me?  The smell of water, that is? And how my washing machine, drying laundry and wearing clothes from my washing machine were making me vomit?Read more: It’s The Small Things

Living With Hyperemesis Gravidarum

There’s so much I want to say and have wanted to share about life with HG but I haven’t because talking about it actually makes me feel sick. That said, I have explained at some length what Hyperemesis Gravidarum is, as well as informally mentioning it during my first pregnancy, before I really understood it.

I’ve had Hyperemesis Gravidarum both times, and true to form, this time has been worse, sickness wise, but it has been ‘better’ living with it due to the fact that it’s been managed by Ondansetron (Zofran in the US), a drug actually meant for treating sickness in chemotherapy patients.

The sickness and its associated problems aside, one of the hardest things about living with Hyperemesis for me has been people and their intended-to-be-helpful comments. “Have you tried sucking on Ginger?” Yes. “Ginger snaps before getting out of bed in the morning really helped me.” Then you didn’t have Hyperemesis. “Everyone gets sick during pregnancy, you’ll get through it.” Yes. But not everyone loses 20kg (3 stone, almost). Or doesn’t eat for four months. Or can’t keep down water. Or vomits up blood from tearing their stomach lining and oesophagus from the sheer violence of the sickness (me neither, thankfully). Not everyone can’t move out of bed, or are unable to look after their toddlers.Read more: Living With Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Friday Favourites – Attached Mummy

I have written a bit about Hyperemesis Gravidarum this week, because, well, I’m living it right now.

Apart from one commenter who ventured ‘everyone has morning sickness, just get plenty of rest’ before linking me to a spam site, everyone has been so supportive and I’m so grateful for that.

I’ve been doing my usual thing and reading a lot about the condition and what’s worked for different people, and Attached Mummy wrote a post about Hyperemesis Gravidarum on the same day I did, but I thought hers was much more informative, succinct and somewhat less emotional, since she’s written it after the pregnancy.

As you know, I prefer a drug free pregnancy, but AM’s argument at the end of the post that actively choosing to have drugs during pregnancy is often seen as putting your own needs in front of the baby’s, which I thought was an interesting, and possibly accurate assessment.

What really struck me about her article, however, was this:

Pregnancy is not just about the baby, how a mother feels during this stage of her life is important too. Indeed, how we perceive ourselves as mothers is a process which starts during pregnancy, so a lack of support and an abundance of criticism is unlikely to produce very confident mothers.

That is so incredibly true and so valuable. I’m always saying about mothers following their instincts – and that has to start during pregnancy, because that’s our practice period.

By the way, I feel a lot better today. The meds are working and I’m able to keep small portions of plain foods down. Yay.


Mourning Pregnancy

I spent a bit of time today surfing the ol’ world wide web, just catching up on reading that I’ve not been able to do for a few days due to extreme sickness, and read an article on actress Kate Hudson who had a successful VBAC this weekend. While that’s fantastic news, it was her comment about pregnancy that struck the very core of me.
Read more: Mourning Pregnancy

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hyperemesis Gravidarum. No, I’m not swearing at you but if those are words you are familiar with, I won’t be surprised if you just flinched.

Hyperemesis is Greek for “excessive vomiting’ and Gravida Latin for “pregnant” means just that: excessive vomiting in pregnancy.
Read more: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hospitalisation – Hyperemesis Gravidarum

When a doctor tells you that you’re okay, and perhaps just need to suck on some ginger, you think, “Ok… let me buy some ginger”. In the case of Dr.W however, I am pleased to say that I was right and he was oh so wrong.

After my Monday visit with him, and a frantic breakdown of desperate tears on Monday night, I took the tablets he offered on Tuesday and Wednesday and although I wasn’t sick during those two days, I was so tired I could not stay awake or continue to do a full day’s work.  On Thursday I had a busy day and couldn’t afford to take the tablets, so instead spent the day between my desk and the bathroom again, and by Friday morning was at the point of self harm out of sheer desperation.  I had a meeting with one of our providers during which I had to excuse myself. At the end of the meeting, Duncan, the director of their company and by now someone I know quite well asked me if I was okay, because I wasn’t really myself.  I told him in brief strokes what was going on, and he was very sympathetic, having known someone with the condition previously.  He strongly encouraged me to go to A&E and have myself admitted.  Strongly to the point of wanting to accompany me for the afternoon wait!

dripI persuaded him that I would go and did not need company.

Upon arriving at A&E and almost passing out in the queue, it was finally my turn to spread my woes to the smiley woman behind the counter. Upon her question “have you been to your GP”, I lost all control of my faculties and resumed Monday night’s frantic sobbing (great fun with a whole emergency room full of people watching you blubber!)  I went to see the nurse within about 15 minutes, and although she was okay, she too had that “this is your first pregnancy, isn’t it?” sneer about her.  Two hours later, parched to the point that I could no longer swallow, I was finally summonsed in to the emergency room. I  was given a bed to lie on, a urine test to take, and my bloods were drawn. I was allowed to stay there and sleep while the bloods went off to the lab.  My urine was the colour of muddy water, and my feelings of sickness were justified when the results came back with +++++ (5+) ketones.

I was immediately put on an IV saline drip, and half an hour later on another.  I was then moved to an observation ward where I was able to see Martin, although I don’t believe I was overly coherent at that point! Six hours after walking in to the A&E of Kings College Hospital, I was admitted to Katherine Monk ward, bed 20 where I was to spend the next 3 days.  I was given 5 litres of intravenous liquid before I was able to go to the toilet again, and it took two days for my ketones to get back down to zero.  So much for Dr.W’s diagnoses that I wasn’t dehydrated enough to be taken seriously.

As far as hospital stays go, this was a good one.  My tv was broken, so I slept and read and played a lot of puzzle games, and I shared the room with two annoying women, but fortunately I was able to tune out their eccentricities in my own misery!  The night nurse, a lady by the name of Janel was my own personal angel of mercy.  Not only did she treat me as a person, make me feel comfortable, explain what was going on and what I was to expect, but when she had time, she also sat with me, spoke to me and made me feel at ease.  I know that if I was ever to be sick again, I would request whatever ward she’s on.

My ward was where the bottom set of open windows are

My ward was where the bottom set of open windows are

I was released on Monday afternoon, and went straight back to two full on days of work. That wasn’t really clever as it turned out on Wednesday evening when I became violently ill again.  I have taken the rest of the week a little easier indeed!

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I have not written anything in a while. Not because there’s nothing to write, but because once things are down in black and white, it becomes impossible to take them back.  If said, you can always deny the charge, but once written they stay written forever.

This is a very difficult and somewhat lonely time in the pregnancy, I think, because the mom-to-be is the only one who ‘sees’ the pregnancy.  The dad-to-be can’t really be involved yet, because there’s nothing to be involved with, and the same goes for family. Where friends are concerned, all that’s happened is that you’re not really around much anymore.  Or maybe that’s just in my case.

Diagnosis- Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Read more: Hyperemesis Gravidarum