May 15th is Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day. To help raise that awareness, I wanted to share a my story on how HG left me no choice but to terminate my pregnancy.
What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is the name given to women who experience excessive vomiting during pregnancy. It’s NOT morning sickness. HG usually starts between four to seven weeks into pregnancy and is said to ease off around the fourteen week mark. Unfortunately, for a lot of women, this isn’t the case and they suffer with HG throughout their whole pregnancy.
In my case, my body wasn’t able to let me make it past the fourteen week mark and having uncontrollable sickness led to me being hospitalised and put on a drip. One of the only ways to control the HG is with sickness medication, and trying to swallow tablets when your throat is so sore from throwing up continuously is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to try and force myself to do. At times the medication would come right back up straight after swallowing so it would be an ongoing battle to try and concentrate on not being sick. Being so weak and dizzy that I couldn’t get myself out of bed and have other people bathe me was one of the low points of my life with HG.
As soon as I hit the six week mark of my pregnancy, I went from having normal morning sickness to having uncontrollable sickness within twenty-four hours. That’s how fast HG can affect a woman. My stepdad phoned up the doctor’s surgery and asked for an appointment to see someone about my pregnancy. They told him they couldn’t see me until I was around nine weeks pregnant however, as I was being sick over 30 times a day, I was eventually able to see a doctor who only let me go to the hospital to have fluids once I did a urine sample and he saw that my ketones were high. (Ketones are what your body produces when your body starts to break down your ingested fat or stored for energy. They usually occur in the urine when your body isn’t getting enough carbohydrates which is what was happening with me when I couldn’t keep food down).
I couldn’t take any more of the sickness and I was going downhill fast. That’s when I ended up going to my GP so he could push an emergency termination through for me. Even though it was an emergency, I still had to wait to see what slots were available for me to have the termination. My GP was nothing but understanding and could see straight away the strain on my body because of the Hyperemesis Gravidarum. He never once tried to talk me out of terminating the pregnancy and he understood why I wanted to go through with it.
The days I spent waiting for the termination were torture; I felt like I was never going to feel better or get my body back under control. When the day finally came, I was so weak and petrified and I had to travel further than I thought as there were no slots available nearer to me. However, the hospital staff were brilliant and kept checking on me to make sure I was okay. I was around nine weeks pregnant when I went to have my termination and the HG was at it’s worst by that point. As soon as I woke from the operation, I was able to eat straight away, finally being able to keep fluids down. It was a relief after not having eaten properly in three weeks.
There are a lot of mixed reactions when I talk about terminating a pregnancy because of HG. A lot of us women who choose to terminate don’t do it because we want to, we do it because we just can’t cope. I have a chronic illness called Neurocardiogenic Syncope which causes me to faint and have low blood pressure and also affects my heart. This, mixed with HG, was a recipe for disaster. Through being sick so much, I became very dehydrated which made my illness (one which requires me to stay hydrated) a thousand times worse. Because no fluids were getting into me, my body couldn’t cope and went into shock mode. I spent hours in the dark, trying my best to stay away from any foods because the smells would set off my puking to the point where I couldn’t stop being sick until nothing was left in my stomach. I felt so isolated and alone and, even though I had people around me trying to help me, I felt like a prisoner in my own body and like this baby was trying to kill me.
My mental health has, and will most likely always, be affected by HG as well as the trauma of having to have a termination. I still have days where I sit and cry and feel empty. I used to feel like I was alone and that no-one understood, but over the years my family and friends have started to understand and help me through my depression. They’ve been so supportive and I couldn’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me. On the days where I feel that I was weak for giving into a termination, close members of my friends and family would reassure me that putting my health first wasn’t weak at all and that going through with a termination when I really wanted my baby was a tough choice. They knew it was the only option I had and their constant reassurance helped me a lot throughout the years. I couldn’t allow myself to spiral out of control as dwelling on it all just leads me down a dark road that I don’t want to go down ever again.
HG has left me with a constant fear of getting pregnant and it makes me feel like I shouldn’t toy with the idea of wanting to go through with another pregnancy. What scares me most about being pregnant again is knowing what it would lead to and how bad the sickness gets in such a short space of time. People have said to me several times that it might not happen the next time you’re pregnant but, unfortunately, if you’ve had HG once there is a big risk of you getting it again and it’s usually even worse with each pregnancy (so I’ve been told). For a long time, I felt like I was being punished and that I might have done something wrong to bring this sickness on myself, but I’ve been working on dealing with these feelings and realising there is nothing I could have done to prevent HG from happening.
There are a lot of women who aren’t aware of the help out there for them for this sickness, in fact I wasn’t aware until I read an article about a charity called Pregnancy Sickness Support. Throughout my experience, I had never been told that there was a clinic or help like that out there. I mostly put it down to health professionals not knowing themselves; it’s bad enough that a lot of them aren’t aware of Hyperemesis Gravidarum with most health professionals just thinking I had morning sickness and that I needed to rest.
Now that I’ve found out that there is more help out there for me I hope to plan out a pregnancy as best as I can with my GP and make a care plan for my sickness for when the time is right for me to try again. The Pregnancy Sickness Support charity has a lot of information on their site and has PDF files which you can download on HG information as well as a pregnancy plan for when HG suffers want to plan a pregnancy.
If you know anyone who is going through a rough time with HG please try to be sensitive, a lot of traditional ‘cures’ for morning sickness, such as ginger, simply don’t work for HG sickness, so please be careful about what you’re suggesting. Importantly, if you need help, please talk to your GP or Pregnancy Sickness Support.