I often wondered what it would be like to live the life of Kate Middleton. What must it be like to adjust to all the stipulations of royal life, life in the public eye, life scrutinised every day. I also felt sorry for her being ill during pregnancy and remember thinking ‘I hope I don’t get that when I’m pregnant’.
A passing thought that unfortunately for me, would become a reality.
I’ve been married 15 months now. We technically started trying to conceive straight away once married, that is, we stopped trying not to. Trying to get pregnant is an extraordinary thing. At the time, it does not seem so. In our case we spent our twenties trying not to get pregnant. We were far too busy, building our professional skills, changing jobs and moving from the rental market to becoming first time home owners.
Maybe I was naive, but I assumed we’d be ‘lucky’ and become pregnant straight away. It wasnt until a painful 6 months later that we finally did conceive. Technically it was 9 months, but 3 of those were very difficult, we were arguing and stressed and basically, nothing except sleep took place in the bedroom.
As a woman, going from dealing with an annoyance of a period each month to dealing with the sorrow of those cramps returning is enviable. I, like many, thought that if we couldn’t conceive naturally it must be me. Something must be wrong with me. But I’ve come to realise from talking to friends who are new parents, to friends still trying that everyone is different. There is help if needed and some people will have to forge a different path. I, myself am adopted for this very reason.
So when we did find out we were pregnant, then came feelings of joy (we’d bloody done it!) to feelings of panic and ‘oh shit, can we actually do this’. Becoming pregnant and navigating the labyrinth of antenatal appointments is a monumental task in itself. I say this as we live in an area where through national changes and budget cuts to our local NHS trusts, our local maternity wards were closed and moved to another larger area. As a result, our community midwives are based there, not in our area. Which comes with its own set of problems, as so far I deal with acute teams and the community team seperately. Which means I effectively have to pass the note between these teams continuously and it is draining.
Five weeks into the pregnancy I began to feel sick.
I thought this was normal. I’m pregnant, it’s morning sickness. I presumed I’d throw up and just be able to ‘get on with things’. Twenty four hours later and the nausea hadn’t gone away, I was unable to stop vomiting and anything other than lying still was making me violently sick. I knew at that point, this was not normal. It was mid evening and our GP surgery was shut, so my husband called 111. They directed us to our out of hours GP.
We drove to the local hospital and I was throughly checked over. I was diagnosed with vomiting secondary to a UTI and could either accept an anti emetic that the Dr explained was not licensed for pregnancy or be admitted to a ward for fluids. I choose the later. I was tired and dehydrated, I wanted the fluids which I thought would help. Little did I know at this stage that the ketosis I was experiencing would become a regular occurence.
I was admitted to a medical ward and stayed there until morning. I was given a bag of fluid IV and no sympathy, told that this just happens in pregnancy, the nurses had it with their own and just got on with it. I went to my GP the next day and she gave me first line anti emetic medication, cyclizine. I began to take these, but as my ketones probably weren’t at baseline (which is zero) when I was discharged, 3 days later I became sick again.
The only escape was to sleep. I slept all day and night, when I woke the vomiting restarted. My husband carried me to the GP surgery and it was at this stage that I was first diagnosed with hypermesis gravidarium (HG). A rare but severe form of vomiting and sickness in pregnancy that affects up to 2% of all pregnant women. Great.
I was admitted to a different hospital via the gynae assessment unit. The routine goes like this, you become so unwell that fluids, not even sips of water stay down and you can start vomiting stomach acid and bile. Imagine having a bad hangover and then you have food poisoning on top. You’re admitted to hospital where they give you fluids and drugs intravenously (IV) or intramuscular (IM) and they monitor the amount of ketones in your urine, take blood tests etc. Each time I have been admitted my ketones have been 4+ which is high. Each time I have been in hospital since, I have been admitted to the antenatal ward overnight and they have been tasked with ‘fixing me’ as the midwives coin it.
One thing is for certain. This condition is awful, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
I have never felt so ill in all my life. It has left me bedbound and now virtually housebound. It takes away your ability to function day-to-day and work. It can be life threatening if not treated and is often misunderstood by the general public as well as health professionals. It has turned my life upside down and made me reevaluate how I will deal with things in life moving forward.
Since becoming pregnant myself, Kate has announced a third HG pregnancy. While I feel for her as a HG sufferer, I’m glad that someone in her position and status is stirring up the media and getting people talking about the condition. It is so debilitating and like many chronic mental and physical health conditions, not seen and misunderstood.
Next time: Methods on how to cope with living with HG.