Well in the light of recent news and reference to this blog in various papers and on the BBC website I'd be crazy not to re-open it and write an update!
Obviously the news that the Duchess of Cambridge is suffering hyperemesis gravidarum is big news in the “HG world” in which I've been immersed for a number of years now and have been working so hard to raise awareness and improve care for.
But the reality is that I just feel so so so sorry for the poor woman who is suffering right now. I remember so clearly the feeling of being poisoned by every morsel of food or sip of fluid that passed my dried out and tired lips. Her excitement of a positive pregnancy test has been cruelly crushed by the torturous nature of hyperemesis gravidarum, and it just feels so unfair.
On top of the sheer living nightmare of hyperemesis she will have the humiliation of the entire world watching her suffer. And I fear that she won't be able to win in terms of what the public want to see. If she manages to put some make up on, force out a smile and feign an appearance of wellness then she will be further criticised for going to hospital for “a bit of morning sickness”. But who wants to see the revolting reality of hyperemesis gravidarum... vomit, pale dry skin, dull lifeless eyes and so on... wouldn't the cruel press love to see that!!!
The isolation that comes with this condition is almost as indescribable as the unrelenting painful nausea and vomiting that defines it. It is genuinely hard for people who have not suffered to understand what it is like and unfortunately terms like 'morning sickness', which the common form of mild pregnancy sickness is generally (and incorrectly) referred to, makes people think that they had what she had... “but they just got on with it; they didn't have time off work to lounge around in bed!”... Just to be absolutely clear; Hyperemesis Gravidarum is NOT morning sickness. It is a serious and debilitating complication of pregnancy. Before intravenous fluids (drips) were invented in the 1930's it was the leading cause of maternal death in early pregnancy. The only reason we no longer die from it is because of IV fluids and safe and effective medication, which I have blogged about before and which there is mountains of information about on www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk
Unfortunately, even well meaning family and friends can accidentally add to the isolation and misery experience by sufferers of this horrendous condition with “helpful” suggestions about trying ginger, sucking a mint, or getting fresh air, or my favourite... “thinking positively”!
So I thought I'd write some practical tips for supporting someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum:
- DO NOT MENTION GINGER!!!
- Don't wear perfume, aftershave or strong deodorant around the sufferer
- Don't eat garlic for the duration of the pregnancy!
- Do move slowly around her and talk quietly, don't make the bed bounce; vomit inducing!
- Bring food to her as soon as possible when she feels like it; the nausea free moment that she feels like eating in will soon pass
- Don't imply that she is lucky to just be able to chill out and relax and avoid being over excited about the actual pregnancy... it's hard to be excited when you feel like you're dying
- Just be there for her. Expect that she'll cry and seem down and withdrawn... take one day at a time and try not to project to the future – “only 4 more weeks until you're 12 weeks” is really unhelpful when you don't know how you'll survive one more day.
- Each evening point out that it's another day done which she never has to do again.
- Contact our charity and get her support through our national network of volunteers
Right, the news of her discharge has just come through so my phone is ringing like crazy again!
I hope so much that the Duchess has support from someone who has been through it and I hope that she know there are hundreds of thousands of women around the world who have endured this condition are sending her so much love and support – regardless of her name and fame, right now she is one of us... A Spewing Mummy!