Hyperemesis Gravidarum (severe morning sickness)

While many women experience morning sickness (or all day sickness!) during pregnancy, for a small group of expectant mothers the nausea and vomiting is more extreme and highly debilitating.

Known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), the condition, which can be both physically and emotionally challenging, affects around one to three per cent of pregnancies. For some women, symptoms resolve during the second trimester. Others, however, experience HG up until delivery.

HG is real, and can have a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life. As well as coping with the physical affects of the illness, women are often unable to work or care for older children and can require hospitalisation for treatment of severe dehydration. For some women, the condition can be so severe they choose to terminate their pregnancy.

I threw up violently and felt sick mostly every day of my pregnancy. Hyperemesis is real and it’s awful.”

Amy Schumer

HG and perinatal mental health:

Research has found that having severe morning sickness increases the risk of depression both during and after pregnancy. In fact, one study found that nearly half of women with HG suffered antenatal depression (depression during pregnancy) and nearly 30 per cent had postnatal depression. Some women also reported thoughts of self-harm.

It’s important to know that if you find yourself struggling emotionally as you battle HG, you’re not alone. Many women describe feeling miserable that their pregnancy hasn’t been the way they expected it to be and worried about how they’ll cope with a new baby after nine months of ill-health and exhaustion.

As I laid in the hospital bed and looked down at my emaciated body, fighting the urge to vomit yet again, I kept thinking how this was all wrong. I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. My body wasn’t supposed to be reacting like this. This wasn’t the pregnancy experience portrayed by social media, apps, or articles, and it certainly wasn’t the pregnancy experience I had envisioned for myself.

Sofía Muñoz Abou-Jaoudé 

 

Support for HG:

While some women find chatting to mums who have experienced HG helpful (no one will tell you to try eating crackers!) others find that having professional support during pregnancy is invaluable too. Support can also be useful for managing anxiety around subsequent pregnancies.

“I felt guilty… I felt guilty about work, I felt guilty towards my child, I felt guilty towards my husband… and I felt angry with myself: ‘why can’t I do this?’ It would have been very nice if I could have spoken to someone other than my direct family. It doesn’t have to be solved, but it helps to talk about how you can deal with it.”

You can find a skilled professional in your local area by searching our e-COPE Directory here:

How to cope with HG: Tips from those who’ve been there

  • Find a doctor who will take your concerns seriously – and keep trying until you do. It’s not “just in your head!” and you are not “just lazy.” Discuss treatment options including medications that can help you manage the symptoms.
  • Join a support group on Facebook or an online forum. These can help you feel less alone and are useful for suggestions on how to manage the symptoms. (No ginger biscuits!)
  • It’s OK to feel both awful AND happy to be pregnant. If you haven’t experienced HG it’s hard to understand how miserable it can be.
  • HG can have a significant impact on your partner as they can often feel helpless and are required to take on more work around the house/childcare. Make sure they have support too, and accept all offers of help from family and friends.
  • Try to be kind to yourself, take each day at a time, and know that this too shall pass! Holding your baby makes it all worthwhile.