Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hyperemesis Gravidarum - Not Just for Royalty

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Amidst all the excitement and joy surrounding the recent announcement that Kate Middleton is expecting, there has also been some discussion about the darker side of her pregnancy -- a rare  condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  If you are like most people, that isn't a term you were very familiar with prior to the media coverage in the last few weeks.  But, when I heard the news, I immediately thought of our friends Jessica and Jeremy who are all too familiar with HG.  Jessica's two precious girls - Kylie and Ryland (shown below) - are HG survivors, and Jessica is a HERO for living through it not once but TWICE.  It is truly a privilege for me to share this guest post from her today and, hopefully, shed even more light on the reality of this condition...

Let me start off by saying THANK YOU, E for asking me to do this post. This blog provided me with endless hours of reading while I was confined to a recliner in my living room, so to be asked to do this was really an honor for me…Let’s hope with this open forum that I don’t get too long winded! 

Now on to the meat of the matter, hyperemesis is NOT morning sickness! If it were morning sickness, I would have enjoyed my pregnancies! The definition of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) technically means excessive vomiting while pregnant. That’s also an understatement. It’s SO much more than excessive vomiting. It’s throwing up so many times in a day that you can only dry heave and your core muscles are sore.  It’s weight loss, malnourishment, dehydration, and misery. It’s worry, depression, loneliness, resentment, and despair. That’s my definition anyway, and this is my story:

I always wanted several kids, and I wanted them spaced two years apart. My husband and I tried for baby number one for a few months, and to our delight we found out I was pregnant in May 2006. I was so excited, and we began talking about what he or she would look like, what kind of things we’d buy for him or her, how he or she would be raised, etc.  Excitement suddenly turned to sickness during the 6th week. Imagine the worst flu you’ve had and multiply that by ten. Hyperemesis is worse than that; it’s in its own category. I never knew people could be so sick during pregnancy. 

I’ll never forget the day I was diagnosed. It was one day before my 7th week, and I was in a hospital room hooked up to an IV. The room was dark because the bright lights intensified the sickness. The doctor came in and sat in the corner. He gave a name to the misery I was experiencing – hyperemesis gravidarum.

In some cases, hyperemesis goes away after the first trimester. But in other cases, it lasts the entire time. After being hospitalized three times before my first trimester was over, being stuck a million times for IVs, and having doctors tell me to just wait it out until week 12/16/18 and it’ll go away, I finally had a PICC line put in my arm at 18 weeks.  A PICC is basically a line that goes in the vein and travels all the way up to within inches of the heart. It’s a semi-permanent port to allow easy administration of IVs and anti-nausea medication at home without having to go to the hospital. My husband became well experienced in home care, and he gave meds and IVs as needed all the way up until delivery. The only relief I received from hyperemesis (if you want to call it that) was when he gave me Phenergan at night, which basically knocked me out. Unconsciousness was the only relief I could get. Ridiculous…What was this nightmare I was living?  This was supposed to be the time in my life I had looked forward to for as long as I could remember.

I was miserably sick every day until 37 weeks. On December 28, 2006, Kylie was born. At the moment of delivery, the sickness went away. Just like that, it was gone. Kylie was born, and all was well. 

Two years later, I really wanted another child. Three years later, it became an obsession. I was sad and angry that hyperemesis had ruined my plans.  Kylie was old enough to ask about having a sibling, but it just wasn’t possible at that time. We weren’t at a point financially where I could be out of work and my husband could miss a lot of work to take care of me. This made me very sad. I worried that Kylie would be too old and there would be too much time between her and a sibling.

Five years after Kylie was born, we were finally at a good point financially. If I were plagued by hyperemesis again, we would be okay if just my husband worked.  But how could I miss out on nine months of Kylie’s life? After a lot of thought, conversation, and prayer, we finally decided to try for another one...

A couple months later, I was so excited to find out I was pregnant again! But just like the first time, the sickness came on around 6 weeks.  We were more prepared to handle hyperemesis this time. I had a great doctor who was open to any kind of treatment. I tried a course of steroids that some women had success with, but it didn’t work. Hyperemesis was just as strong as before. I again had to rely on my PICC line (which I got at 7 weeks since my past history showed this was not going to go away) and Phenergan. During the day, when my husband was at work and Kylie was with either my mom or my mother-in-law, I would sit alone in the recliner and question our decision to have another baby.  It sounds terrible, but when I was my sickest, I begged God to make me feel better at all costs.  I told myself and God that I would be able to accept a miscarriage because my sickness would be over. This made me feel very guilty, and I shed many tears over these kinds of thoughts.  Obviously, in my right mind, I would have been totally devastated to have lost my precious baby but this is how HG makes you feel.  This was only November, June seemed like a million years away!   

Hyperemesis continued on until delivery. Rylan was born on June 23, 2012, and the sickness disappeared. Later that day I inhaled six pieces of pizza like I hadn’t eaten in 9 months!  I was so glad to be able to eat like a normal person, but I still had fears of eating certain foods because of bad memories of throwing them up while pregnant.

I now have two kids, and I’ve learned to be content with that. We won’t try for number three because hyperemesis is too much to bear again. I’m so thankful that they’re both healthy and hyperemesis appears to have had no effect on them.

One last thought on my hyperemesis experiences: That kind of sickness is a real test on marriage that some may not survive. I felt lonely and depressed because I was experiencing sickness that no one else could relate to. My husband felt lonely and depressed because there was nothing he could do to stop it.  Hyperemesis is definitely a struggle, and I’m so thankful that it’s over. I’ll never again be plagued by this evil disease!! In the end, HG lost.

As for Kate Middleton, not that I’m happy she has hyperemesis, but I’m happy that so many people now know what it is because of her. But if it turns out that she has a mild case, everyone will continue to think that hyperemesis is just morning sickness. If accurate information comes out because of her sickness, then I think it’s a good thing. I definitely feel for her though.

If you want more information about HG, Jessica recommends and for accurate, helpful info.  Thanks Jessica!


  1. To say this is a lovely story doesn't sound quite right, but it was a blessing to read it. Your honesty and courage is inspiring! Jessica, how did your oldest daughter react to you being so sick all of the time?
    Thank you for sharing this!

  2. This is so interesting! I'd never heard of the condition before Kate, and upon hearing about her condition, basically just assumed she was a wimp and needed to suck it up and put on her big girl panties. Now I feel like a total jerk!! Glad I didn't TELL her that! know, since we're BFF and all. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Jessica...I'm so sorry you've had to suffer with this. I really appreciate you sharing so openly with us. Your children are beautiful!

  3. I can't imagine an entire pregnancy of this awful HG. I wish that the general public were better informed of the trials and tribulations that come with pregnancy. I feel like I'm a pretty well-informed person, but when I first became pregnant, I was appalled at all the things that can happen. So, for this reason, and for my own education, thank you for sharing :)

  4. Thank you for sharing! I was so sick during my first pregnancy, but of course forgot all about it as soon as I saw baby girl. Now, I'm pregnant with #2 and at 7 weeks, I can barely leave the bed, can't eat or drink (drinking is the worse for me). I have also spent hours crying over our decision. So thank you for your honesty, it's making me feel better about my own emotions and fears. Fingers crossed the Zofran works. And I'm actually looking forward to an IV for some fluid.


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