Back in the press: Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a personal perspective
When “The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant” and “morning sickness” headlines hit this week I stopped in my tracks. When will the media stop being shy of the medical terminology and point out that morning sickness, severe or not is one thing, and Hyperemesis Gravidarum is another. The coverage is better and more informative but the real HG doesn't make for a good story.
If you’re of a delicate constitution, a warning: HG is graphic and unpleasant.
It’s one thing to be sick when you’ve over indulged at a party having forgotten you’re 36 and have two kids, but now imagine being sick 30, 40, 50 plus times each day with no warning or pattern. “Really?” I hear you ask. Yes, it is that bad. I don’t know how Kate is feeling but this was my experience.
I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum in my first pregnancy from week 6 and I was hospitalised at week 7 after losing 10% of my body weight. I entered the world of drips, anti-sickness pills and vitamins and continued to be sick, it was a shock to the system. I was told it would subside at week 12 or maybe week 16 but definitely by week 20 – I passed all those weeks still vomiting. Everyone I met had advice and helpful remedies but all of it was useless. Try ginger nuts, “the ginger will help” said everyone I met – I found they didn’t work and were in fact awful (use your imagination).
I was a good HG patient – I took my medication, vomited, ate soft foods that would come back easily, vomited and repeated. In between times I lay on the sofa in the dark or round the loo or in lay-bys having stupidly tried to leave the house. I had a part time job which I had to leave. I couldn’t function normally. However hard I tried to get on with it, HG took over my life.
Thankfully at 25 weeks I stopped being sick (well, cut it back to an acceptable 5 times or so a day). I then ate my lost body weight and more in cake until my daughter arrived.
Pregnancy number 2 happened and this time it wasn't just me to think about. Hugh and I had a 22 month old blonde poppet to look after. Week 6 arrived and HG with it: I was expecting the sickness but had forgotten how horrific the reality actually was.
Darcey was incredible – she potty trained herself over three days so nappies were no more. She was a chatterbox and capable of fetching towels. She would follow me to the bathroom, imitate me and then take herself off. "Mummy sick, bleugh...I watch Peppa" – the guilt was crippling as she parented herself between visits from family and friends.
No need to explain again the rigmarole of each day again apart from to say it was traumatic, disgusting and exhausting. Anywhere I went I carried spare clothes, wet wipes and plastic bags and polo mints (suck for 5 seconds and spit out). I was hospitalised a few more times and so grateful of my family close by. Hugh had to watch and carry on with the normal routine – it was tough on him too. There is nothing anyone can do to help. I was still wearing normal clothes at 28 weeks and not because I was carefully watching my weight gain. Not a "bonus" as many exclaimed - give me extra baby weight to lose any day.
I had HG until the moment Hux was delivered at 39 weeks (1 day after this photo). I was nil-by-mouth but defied the logic and was sick all day waiting for my c–section. Then, miraculously at his arrival, it ceased.
I was bad but could have been worse. Some women end their pregnancies, others waste away in dark rooms emotionally and physically scarred. I genuinely consider myself fortunate: I have two gorgeous children from two pregnancies, and regained the lost weight faster than you can say "it's not morning sickness".
I would not, under any circumstances, even for vast sums of money, ever, ever get pregnant again.
Advice if you know or meet someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Don’t tell her about when you had morning sickness. Please, just don't.
Don’t suggest things she should eat or drink. If she had the energy she would run screaming from the room.
Don’t expect anything from her - everything is a chore when you can’t even keep 5ml of water down.
Never ever mention ginger biscuits.
If you’re suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Ask for help and accept all offers.
Don't be fobbed off - hyperemesis gravidarum is a real thing.
I can’t advise anything else because each woman is different.
Looking for positives note to end: the HER Foundation (Hyperemesis Education & Research) is incredible and continues to research the causes, effects and treatment of HG.
We wish The Duchess of Cambridge a healthy pregnancy and hope that she and her family receive the support and care they need.