Three times. A grand total of 123 weeks spent "in the grips" of what I would learn after my first pregnancy was called Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
The first time was horrific. I was only 19 years old, had an unexpected pregnancy, and was thrust into a world I would come to loathe. I was working at a drug store at the time, front of the store, working with people and money. Not only did I experience nausea, but I also experienced humiliation. It didn't matter what time of the day, where I was, what I had ate or how I slept. I was very sick and at the time I was trying to hide the obvious from a lot of people. When I eventually started prenatal care, I was given Diclectin (without really understanding how it worked or what it was made of). I had no clue why I was vomiting despite being on medication that was supposed to help - and it was far too expensive to continue filling. So, I took nothing.
The nausea was paralyzing. I went to the end of my 42nd week of the pregnancy before the nausea was gone. Many ultrasounds, many admissions, and even false labor at 27 weeks, weight loss instead of gain... and yet, no diagnosis was mentioned or offered. I spent most of the pregnancy taking antibiotics for constant UTI's and even had a kidney infection at one point from a week of straight vomiting. My doctor just wanted me to eat better and insisted I keep trying things like toast and (wait for it) crackers. (FYI, crackers is a swear word in my world) Tai came into the world, and when the nausea went away I began the busy life of single mother. I gained my weight back, eventually muscle tone and energy returned, and all seemed normal. Pregnancy amnesia set in, and I left that chapter of my life buried in a place I didn't ever want to visit again.
The second pregnancy I was vomiting before I had a positive test. I poked around after my first admission for fluids in the ER and started reading about Hyperemesis Gravidarum - hoping that I wouldn't have to be dealing with severe nausea the whole time. This time I had a nursing degree under my belt and clued in that this couldn't be normal. Other cues - birth control made me very sick between the babies, and the vomiting was constant.
By 18 weeks, I had several ER trips for intravenous medication for nausea, several prescriptions (filled this time), and a few different trials of medication. Some women I had met on my online forum were living on intravenous feeding (TPN), and essentially hospitalized with severe, severe malnutrition and other problems associated with being depleted of every essential building block of survival. I learned that women have died from HG - Charlotte Bronte was rumored to have HG. It is not common, but it has happened that a woman suffering from HG has chosen to end the pregnancy.
There was a point in all three of my HG pregnancies that things got desperate and either by way of severe depression, malnutrition, or both that I certainly contemplated not continuing the pregnancy. Looking back - I was lucky enough to have my husband with baby two and three to support me through the dark times. Although, it was extremely hard on our marriage to endure HG. We rallied many times both during the pregnancies and after.
The third time was the "charm". I knew I was capable of dealing with mild and moderate hyperemesis - which still meant constant vomiting, nausea, reflux, and any potential side effects from medication. The first ten weeks were pretty standard for me - an ER visit around week 7. I started my meds very early on in the game and increased my Diclectin to the maximum dose. After a dangerous reaction to Gravol in my second pregnancy I learned to be very attentive to how I reacted to medications. Unluckily for me, the one nausea medication that helped the longest instantly caused adverse reactions. But we dealt with it. I spent a majority of the pregnancy working a desk job where I was able to stay relatively still and handle the constant nausea.
Now, I provide support to other women, both as a doula and as a fellow sufferer. If you or someone you know is suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum there is much work that can be done to support her and her family. Helping with regular household duties (laundry, cleaning, and caring for other children) is vital. She will appreciate help with cooking, although anything kept frozen coming into the house will harbor the least amount of smells (pregnancy nose is amplified with hyperemesis). She may be frail and unable to be social, and most likely will require frequent medical care. Emotional and practical support is best. The best resource out there is at www.helpher.org. It is a comprehensive internet support with a built in forum and community of other women who welcome mothers with open arms and vital information to help battle hyperemesis. The cause has not been determined, however studies are being done and more is coming to light every day.
Hyperemesis doesn't end with the pregnancy, which is the hardest reality of this atrocity. Many women suffer lifelong PTSD, dental issues, esophageal and other gastrointestinal illness, cardiac symptoms, and more. Not to mention - our babies, who endure the medications, stress, and possibly emotional and behavioral disorders.
For more information, please visit www.helpher.org.