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Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a pregnancy condition that was propelled into the spotlight recently. When Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, suffered with in throughout all three of her pregnancies. However, it is something which is still largely misunderstood. And- wrongly – thought of by many as ‘bad morning sickness’.

For those that suffer with hyperemesis gravidarum it is much worse than ‘just a bit of morning sickness’. One mum has written an honest and candid Facebook post about what it feels like – not just physically, but emotionally.

Jo Stark is an exercise physiologist, who lives in Adelaide. She writes about how hyperemisis gravidarum affected her in her fourth pregnancy. Here is Jo’s story:

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) …. oh, that’s morning sickness right?

NO. Please NO. It is SO much more than ‘just a bit of morning sickness’. Today (May 15th 2021) is Hyperemesis Gravidarum awareness day so here’s a bit of my most recent brush with HG. HG is debilitating. HG is a potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease. It can cause malnutrition, dehydration and debility due to severe nausea and vomiting, and may cause long term health issues for mum and baby.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum – can take away the joy of being pregnant

HG is cruel in so many ways. It can take away the joy in being pregnant. It takes away from a beautiful pregnancy announcement to friends and family as you reach the second trimester milestone (I haven’t been able to hide any of my pregnancies beyond 7 weeks yet). It taints the little moments you think you’ll have, like being able to take pleasure in ‘eating for two’ and seeing that little baby bump growing. But mostly, for me at least, it takes away the bond you make with the little baby growing in you.

The worry that HG brings

In those first weeks you are emotionally charged with new found pregnancy hormones. But the vomiting and nausea are unrelenting and you’ve lost so much weight that you worry for your unborn child’s health. It’s easy to find yourself in a dark place mentally, wondering why you are putting your family through this (again).

The mum guilt starts even before your baby is born

You start feeling guilty… that you can’t even make it to the toilet to vomit cleanly and that your kids have to watch. That you physically can’t get yourself up off the floor to make your kids a sandwich to eat for lunch so you end up giving them a 3rd pack of chips for the morning while they watch their 2nd movie.

You begin to worry that you are not even being a decent mum to the kids you already have. So how on earth is it a good idea to even be considering bringing another one into the world?

And you feel for not being able to keep it together like so many other people manage to. Ending up in hospital needing IV fluids and multiple medications – but feeling guilty about the time spent away from family, so coming home and vomiting some more even though you really should have stayed in hospital to recover just a little bit more.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum - HG

How HG takes its toll

It sucks. And it doesn’t necessarily stop when you hit the magical second trimester. If you’re lucky you may get it under control with a concoction of medications and pick yourself up enough to get through with a smile. But the sheer exhaustion takes it toll. Physically. Emotionally.

Raising awareness of Hyperemesis Gravidarum

So what is the point of this post? Awareness. Understanding. The more people accept that HG is a severe medical condition that should be treated early and without judgement, the better off a women’s mental and physical health is likely to be.

The more people are aware of it, the less likely people are to hear of our symptoms and say “Have you tried ginger?” or “I found that eating regularly helped keep my nausea at bay”. Without wanting to sound rude, that’s just not helpful. If the 3 different drugs I’m taking from the hospital aren’t helping curb the vomiting, I’m not sure what the heck ginger is supposed to do for me (if I could even keep it down to begin with)?

Maybe if medical professionals were taught more about it and ways of managing it I wouldn’t have to hear things like “Well, you just need to eat something. You don’t want a dead baby do you?” from a nurse treating you in hospital, when I’m at my most vulnerable.

Support for those suffering

And lastly, support.

Be that village for the brave mummas suffering with HG who don’t want to ask for help because they already feel like they’re failing.

Ask how they are and what you can do to help or bring round some dinner (for the rest of the family to enjoy 😅).

I’m so lucky that I have some incredible support around me, but I know that there are so many others that are suffering in silence.

Let’s create the village it takes to raise these beautiful, tiny humans.

by Jo Stark

Where to go to find support

Pregnancy Sickness Support is a registered UK charity. They work to improve the care, support and treatment for those suffering with hyperemisis gravidarum and severe morning sickness. They have a wealth of information and advice on their website, as well as an online support forum and details for their helpline.

You can also get support and share your experiences in The Parent Hub – our friendly Facebook group for mums.

For support with post natal depression and anxiety see the PND section of our blog.

Disclaimer: We have researched and included robust sources to provide information in this article. However, we are not health or medical professionals and you should always seek medical advice if you are worried about you or your baby’s health.