Mental Health and the legacy of HG
Back in the 1930's around the time of psycho-dynamic theory development the mad, excuse the pun, idea developed that women with hyperemesis gravidarum were mentally ill and that the excessive, life-threatening vomiting was down to a subconscious rejection of the foetus. This coincided with a drop in the death rate from the condition thanks to the incredibly wonderful development of intravenous fluids. But not dying, combined with ridiculous theories about women's mental states lead to abominable treatment plans where women were literally locked up, prevented from seeing family and left to rot in their own vomit having had sick bowls removed and nurses told not to help them clean up.
Thankfully, on the whole that kind of stuff doesn't happen any more, although thanks to staff shortages it isn't uncommon for women in hospital to have to dispose of their own vomit bowls.
Even more thankfully, the idea of a psychological cause has been utterly disproved.
However, there can be no denying that hyperemesis gravidarum can causemental health issues for the sufferer. The prolonged suffering of continuous, unrelenting nausea and vomiting. Vomiting which in itself can be violent, painful and unpredictable. The isolation of literally months in bed with only minutes a day of company from your partner who is at work the rest of the time, or caring for other children. Unable to read, speak on the phone, watch TV or gain any respite from focusing on the crippling nausea, the humiliation that comes when vomiting results in urinating on the floor or in your bed or the knowledge you haven't showered in weeks – well it's hardly any wonder depression can ensue.
Peri-natal depression is not uncommon. I certainly was depressed during pregnancy as a direct result of HG. I was luck though that it didn't last beyond pregnancy because for many women peri-natal depression leads to post-natal depression and that can be far more serious than many people realise – ultimately for some it can be fatal.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can also be common after a hyperemesis pregnancy. It's hardly surprising if you look at the causes of the condition – prolonged exposure to an extremely stressful situation. Well, lying in bed for weeks or months vomiting on every movement and thinking you are dying is pretty stressful. Flashbacks are common with this as is emetophobia and food or pregnancy related anxiety and panic attacks. PTSD too can be terminal and should never be underestimated.
Luckily though these conditions are treatable and the first thing you must do if you think you are suffering is to admit you need help. Then get help! Don't just ignore it and hope you'll get better. If you are reading this and think a loved one is suffering then you need to seek help for them. Talk to them and express your concerns but if you are met with resistance and denial then don't be put of getting help for them.
Below are some links to organisations that many be able to help. If your GP or midwife were helpful then you could try them for a referral to a local service. Post-natal depression tend to be well recognised and supported these days and you will hopefully be met with empathy and kindness if you seek help for this. Unfortunately though, peri-natal depression and HG related Post traumatic Stress Disorder tend to be a little less recognised, it's improving, but if your first attempt to get help fails then try, try and try again using the avenues below. Ask your partner to help explain things and show him thepost onAdvocacy which can be applied to advocating about anything really. But above all, get help. It's bad enough you suffered in pregnancy – don't let the legacy of HG ruin any more of your life – take control and get help!
Through the links page on their website I found The Perinatal Illness UK charity which offers support and help for all mental or emotional illhealth during and after pregnancy - well worth getting in touch with if you need help. http://www.pni-uk.com/
Finally, I'll say it again - DON'T SUFFER IN SILENCE - GET HELP!