*I should say that I wrote this post a few months ago but it disappeared into the etha before I could publish. Nevertheless I do hope some of it is of use.
*At 7+6 weeks, when people exclaim ‘oh my gosh your tiny!’ a small pre pregnancy part of me squeels yes! with delight. The bigger pregnant part of me that is preparing to become a parent worries. Is it because it’s my first baby? Or is it because of the weight loss I had during my first trimester when I have hospitalised 6 times?
Whatever the reason, now more than ever I am focusing on staying well and maintained a reasonable level of health for not just myself, but our unborn child.
It hasn’t been the glowing, flowing, lovely pregnancy that magazines and films depict. At times its been absolute torture. Not just physically but mentally as well. As someone who’s spent a considerable amount of time over the last 6 months researching the condition. Here’s some pointers that hopefully other ladies or their supporters may find useful.
- It is NOT your fault. The verdict is still unfortunately out on why exactly some women present with HG and others don’t.** There are a number of theories, one being that we cannot cope with the rise in the HcG hormone that is essential for the creation of the placenta and baby’s first growth into an actual mini me. Other’s say it is heridary or more prevelant in women who have mental health illness and problems with their gastroenterology tract. I have both! But the important thing is not to blame yourself. I have spent months wallowing at times in my very own mental birthing pool trying to understand how I could have prevented it. Eaten better? exercised more? been less stressed? Whatever the reason behind HG appearing, it was ultimately unavoidable.
When you’re spending those miserable months alone at home, not able to do anything because let’s be clear – this is a fatigue illness as well as nausea & vomiting (N&V) do research. Find out everything you can and you will realise a) this condition has been documented as being around since at least the 1920’s and b) while only 1% of us suffer from it, there are women all over the world who are going through the same.
2. Support. I cannot stress just how important support is. For me, my main support has been my husband. For reasons I can’t go into here, my closest family have had to detach from me and as a result my mental health has been affected throughout my pregnancy. I knew my husband loved me. I didn’t realise just how much until just over a year after our wedding the vow ‘in sickness & in health’ really kicked in! HG is not a pretty sight. When the vomiting starts, there is nothing you can do. If you’ve got to the stage where even sips of water are making you violently wretch and vomit, it’s time to get the medical help. After a period of 4 weeks, I would be feeling great after managing to eat and drink ok and just be able to walk around the house unaided and attend to personal care. Then every weds/thurs without fail the nausea would increase and vomiting would begin. I would rapidly become dehydrated and go into ketosis (starvation mode) at which point, the only thing to save me was an IV drip of fluids and some IV or IM antiemetic drugs.
The first two times I was admitted to hospital, we managed to dress me. Yes I say we – at this point I could no longer do anything without physical help. After that, I gave up and walked into A&E in my pj’s and dressing gown where I would lie down on the hard plastic/metal chairs waiting to be triaged, vomiting into my new spangly vomit bowl (a tupperware box which became essential, especially in the car journey on the way there). He was there by my side the whole time. He had to advocate for me as I was that out of it, I could barely speak and I couldn’t be prouder. When I improved and could eat again, he would go and buy me items I could manage and one time I’d been in a few days, he bought me some new pj’s which literally made me feel like a new woman. All things that maybe you’d think he should be doing anyway. But the fact that he thought of those things to me was amazing. If you have HG and don’t have a partner then make sure any family or friends who can help understand what you are going through. I believe part of my family breakdown has been a lack of understanding. HG is a cruel illness. At a time when you should be happy and buying baby grows galore, you are transformed into a person who is grossly ill and can barely function. All the books and online advice about relatives and friends coming over with a dish or to do some washing etc, let them do it now!!! You will not be able to go back to normal until (most likely) the medication you are prescribed kicks in. For me that meant full time work and looking after a house, husband and two pets was impossible. Whoever rocks up at your side during your HG, grab onto them and don’t let them go. (ok, they have to leave at some point – and will probably sneak out when you envitably fall asleep),
There’s also a ton of support online. There’s lots of support groups on Facebook and the main support I found was an online forum run by a small charity called pregnancy sickness support.
It’s full of the other 1% asking questions about HG, offering advice about the condition and generally a safe, non judgemental place to ask for help, vent or support others going through the same.
3. Food. It’s a pretty taboo subject in the world of HG as it becomes the bain of your life. For perspective, I’m a dietetic assistant by trade. That doesn’t mean I live off salad, but I do understand and follow the concept of healthy eating. HG turned my diet upside down. Anything green would make me hurl. All I wanted was stodgy, fatty, fast foods. Part of this was down to my new beagle like nose. I could smell my husband’s coffee from upstairs. The spice rack in the kitchen had to go, as I couldn’t walk into that room without again, yep, vomiting. So when I did manage to eat my diet consisted of jelly, bacon sandwiches, cheese on toast and wotsit crisps. My choice of fluids changed too. Gone was the british tea drinker who obsessively cared about her teeth. In with ice cold orange juice mixed with water. Whatever you find you can eat, eat it. I initially lost 10lbs in one week – my job is nutrition support. I help people to gain weight after a period of frailty or illness. I needed nutrition support! and if that was via Macdonald’s or jelly babies (my first craving) then so be it. ANY food at this point is a bonus. If you can eat it and it stays down, well done! Great job! Keep eating it! Seriously, I’m not joking. Every consultant I saw said the same, it doesn’t matter what kind of foods you’re eating right now. If you can eat it, that’s all that matters. Throughout all of this my baby has been fine. That’s the focus of the antenatal teams looking after you. But people do become worried when you haven’t eaten for days. If you start to feel better later on, then you can start to reintroduce your greens – hello petit poi!
3. Mindfulness, I know at a time when your biggest concern is not throwing up and being able to stay awake without the constant nausea, am I bonkers to suggest this! Well you’ll need something to cope with people’s well meaning but sometimes stupid opinions and suggestions.
This goes back to food slightly but it is a well known annoyance and in joke with the HG crowd. Ginger is a well known natural tonic for morning sickness. It.does.not.work.for.hg! But everyone you know will suggest it, at least in your first stages of HG. I once had a midwife suggest ginger biscuits. When I told her it didnt work, her reply was “maybe try ginger cake”… It was at that point I stopped listening to her.
Dry crackers first thing when you wake are also suppose to be better than any pill. So as I say, either practice mindfulness or learn to scream in your car. Whilst there are consumer style groups within the NHS aimed at improving maternity and antenatal services, you can’t retrain and improve every member of staff.
Please feel free to comment below. Anything I’ve missed on this whistle stop tour? Have you had HG or know someone who has? How have you or they coped? I’d love to hear others experiences.
**Since writing this post, there has been a huge breakthrough in HG research. Scientists have found that there is a genetic link to HG and significant links in a sufferers DNA. This is great news for all who have the condition as it confirms it is a bonified physical condition. It’s not all ‘in our heads’! It’s a real awful condition and hopefully this will help support finding a cure.