Health

Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum

By Marie Stefanowicz 5/14/2020

*PSA: If you are someone suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and/or are actively nauseated, I would suggest you save this read for when you are feeling better.

As I write this, I am desperately looking at the clock. 32 minutes until I can take the next doses of my anti-vomiting/nausea medicine cocktail of Zofran, Reglan & Benadryl. A “cocktail” that my OB lovingly shared with me after I hit rock bottom a few weeks ago. I am 14 weeks pregnant and suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum. Hyperemesis Gravidarum, as defined by the American Pregnancy Association, is a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance. It’s that thing none of us can pronounce that put Kate Middleton in the hospital many times with her three pregnancies and what Amy Shumer shared all over her Instagram when she was pregnant with her son. HG is a b**** and it is dangerous. 


This is my second pregnancy with HG. I suffered from week 5 to 20 with it when I was pregnant with my first baby, and like clockwork it started at 5 weeks pregnant with my second baby. It is so much worse this time around (and yes, I am having a girl this time). I have had multiple trips to the Emergency Room for IV infusions thanks to the dehydration that vomiting 20 times a day causes. I was terrified to take medication, so I refused until I hit the 11 week mark and had been admitted to the ER for the third time in two weeks for IV infusions.

This particular trip to the ER, I was discharged after four hours of infusions and sent home. I lay on my bathroom floor feeling worse than when I went in for help hours before. I was unable to eat. My arms were covered in bruises and puncture marks from the IV attempts. Multiple nurses attempting to start a line into veins that would instantly collapse or were virtually non-existent. I began to cry harder than I have ever cried before, yet there were no tears. The 4 liters of fluid did not even make a dent in the dehydration I was suffering from this particular day. I had many breakdowns in the weeks before but this was definetly rock bottom. I couldn't take it any more. I felt as though I was slowly dying and my baby being harmed in this process. I can't put into words how awful HG makes you feel.  I was on six straight weeks of vomiting 10-20 times a day and being bed ridden, so I also barely had the energy or capability to do anything to help myself. I put my trust completely in the hands of ER doctors that did not understand HG and that was my biggest mistake.  HG is classified as a rare disease and requires specialists who understand it to treat it or you have to really advocate for yourself.

After my husband picked me up off of the bathroom floor and guided me back to bed, I pulled out my phone and started to research how I can help myself. I found Her Foundation. This foundation is incredible. It is one of the only support networks out there actively doing research on the best ways to treat and cure HG. The website connected me to several support people in my local area, I emailed all seven of them and joined the Facebook group. Within minutes I had support from moms who had experienced this awful disease. They helped me find the strength to see my OB the next day and push harder for immediate treatment. They helped me learn more about HG and what medications are recommended. But most importantly, they helped me feel less alone. They weren't telling me to “just force down water” or “eat something bland before you get out of bed in the morning” because they knew that although well-intended, this advice is absoloutely useless for a woman suffering from HG. It can even be harmful because it can make her feel guilty and weak. 

If you are suffering from HG, please please please reach out to Her Foundation or find someone, like me, who has been through it. Because mama, you are not alone and you will get through this.

May 15th is Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day.

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Marie Stefanowicz

Thank you so much for this, I have such a similar story, being much sicker for longer with my second baby. I was in Italy (my home country) at the beginning of my second pregnancy and they were rather dismissive about it, they wouldn't give me any meds and all I could get was acupuncture, which helped for like 30-60 mins after a treatment. Still, I would get it to get a break. It's the worst I have ... more ever felt in my life and I think in spite of Kate Middleton and Amy Schumer it is still much misunderstood and minimized, and those well-intended yet absolutely useless suggestions abound, often even from providers (in Italy they tried to give me this anti-nausea medication that you're supposed to dissolve in water, and I was like I cannot drink a drop for the life of me and you want me to chug this down??? Puking out anti nausea medication, yep). I once heard Amy Schumer say that "It's hyperemesis and we know very little about it because men don't get it." She might be right! Even now I get so worked up talking about it because during the first pregnancy I felt so alone, spending months lying on the couch crying and unable to do a thing. I thought it was regular morning sickness and I was the only one unable to cope while all other pregnant women I knew had a saltine in the morning and were good to go. I thought I was already sucking at pregnancy and motherhood. Truly the most awful times of my life. We have to talk about HG! On the bright side my HG subsided at around 20 weeks and I had a healthy second half of pregnancy in both cases, with healthy babies and rather fast labors. Cheers to your meds cocktail and thanks for the piece
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