Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hyperemesis Gravidarium Awareness

There is a belief in my family that if you are pregnant and throw up you are having a girl and if you eat everything in sight you are having a boy. So, in my first pregnancy when I began to throw up at 6 weeks the only thought I had about morning sickness was I would soon need to buy pink dresses and tiny hairbows. At first I found the morning sickness to be annoying and something to grin and bear, but when I couldn’t keep down water and was throwing up every 15 minutes I began to suspect something might be wrong. I consulted the pregnancy bible “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” and read that some women are sicker than others in pregnancy but on the rare chance that you can't keep anything down you should give your OB's office a call. When I called the OB the “helpful” (ha ha) nurses suggested crackers, ginger ale, sea bands and small frequent meals. I wondered how this would help me if I couldn’t even keep water down? When I went to the OB for my 8 week checkup my Dr. took one look at me and immediately sent me to the hospital where I was given 4 bags of IV fluid in order to get rehydrated. I thought the worst was over until I had to go back to the hospital the next week for more fluids. At that time I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarium (HG).

Hyperemesis is severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy which causes a woman to become dehydrated because she is unable to properly eat and drink. A woman may also lose more than 5% of her body weight and have trouble working or maintaining a normal routine because she is so ill. Hyperemesis feels as if you combined the worst hangover and stomach flu you have ever had and multiplied that by 1000. Once I recevied my diagnosis, I became an invalid, dealing with home health care nurses, IV hydration, blown veins in my hands, powerful anti-nausea drugs that were fed into my leg via a pump and kept me in a haze and an overwhelming fear that my baby and I wouldn't make it through this ordeal. When N was born healthy and weighing in at a whopping 8lbs 1 ozs, I finally felt like I could breathe again. The minute I delivered him it was like a veil lifted from me and all the nausea and vomiting was gone. I was healed.  I was determined to give N a sibling even though I knew that my Hyperemesis would most likely strike again. Sure enough at 6 weeks I was back in the ER receiving fluids. This time I knew what I was up against and demanded more aggresive treatment for my Hyperemesis. Thankfully, J was born healthy but I decided that my dream of having 4 kids was just not possible. My days of pregnancy and battling Hyperemesis were over.

The medication, IVs, nausea and inability to eat was horrible; but the worst part of Hyperemesis is the isolation. Because only 1-2% of pregnant women get this condition, there is little understanding of what exactly causes this severe form of morning sickness. I had to go on disability from my job because I couldn’t manage the drive to work- not with the constant vomiting and the IV pole. Many people thought I was exaggerating and trying to get attention. They didn’t understand that while I was desperately lonely I couldn’t have them come over because smells would send me into hours long vomiting fits. I couldn’t relate to other pregnant women- Cravings? Maternity and baby clothes shopping? I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t leave the house because I refused to throw up in public. Baby showers? Pregnancy glow? HA! My only lifesaver was Help Her: Hyperemesis Education & Research, a hyperemesis pregnancy website and message board. The users of that board knew the fear, frustration and anger of a Hyperemesis pregnancy.

Now that I have defeated the Hyperemesis demon, I feel it is my duty to help other women. While Hyperemesis is still a rare disease, more research, publicity and awareness is occuring every day. If you know someone who is suffering from Hyperemesis, or you think you might have it, please seek help. Don't worry about being wrong, or being called a whiner. If you would like to talk about your experiences, or ask questions, please comment below. Just know that you are not alone!

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