What not to say to a woman with HG
Whilst browsing facebook this morning in bed - moments after waking up as one does – I came across a blog post a friend had shared by Pregnant Chicken, about what NOT to say to a pregnant lady. It was hilarious and cheered me up from my “I have to get up now” blues. And I though I ought to expand on the theme. So in addition to the general pregnancy comment no-no's on Pregnant Chicken's blog here are the things not to say to a women with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (or just bad pregnancy sickness for that matter):
- “Have you tried ginger”... this has got to be the all time greatest thing NOT to say. Research, by a colleague of mine Margaret O'Hara, has found that all women with any level of pregnancy sickness know about the “taking ginger” remedy. What most people don't know (although plenty of veteran HG sufferers do) is that the only form of ginger which has found to be in any way helpful is as a capsule, 1000mg per day and then it is only helpful for mild queasiness. Ginger biscuits, ginger ale, ginger tea, ginger ice lolly's... it's all old wives tales. Do you really think a woman who is on powerful anti-emetics and IV fluids could really have avoided all that suffering if she had only tried a bit of ginger?
- “Oh I had that, but I still went to work and got on with life”. Well then you didn't have HG so shut up... like comparing a twisted ankle to a broken leg.
- “Think positively and get some fresh air”... By saying this it implies that it is all in her mind and she is causing her own suffering. It's a terribly cruel thing to say and a sure fired way to lose a friend and possibly get a fat lip.
- “Well at least you can get pregnant... you should be grateful for that”. We know and we are. Pointing it out just adds to the guilt the woman is already inevitably experiencing due to feeling negative towards the pregnancy and for “not feeling grateful”. It cuts deep and the pain lasts. Plenty of women with HG have even been through the pain of experiencing both and are pregnant thanks to IVF so the hurt for them is all the more.
- “I loved every moment of pregnancy, it's such a special time, creating life, glowing blah blah blah blah”. Well bully for you and thanks for rubbing my nose in my misery!
- “Is it safe to be taking those drugs? Won't they harm the baby?”. No woman actually wants to take medication in pregnancy. We all (well most) go into pregnancy wanting to be natural earth mothers, eating healthy and avoiding all potential harm but sadly some women can not survive pregnancy without medication. In the past, before the invention of modern medicine, women would simply die. Often without knowing why as symptoms would kill her before a pregnancy was confirmed or even suspected. Women with HG taking medication think dozens of times everyday about the safety of the medications, questioning if they really need them and if the baby will be okay but the reality is the drugs are prescribed by a doctor and given because they are NEEDED. They are ultimately much safer then not taking them. Further, the effects of severe dehydration, a baby bathed in ketones and a malnourished mum are hardly good. To add to her concern and worry and to make her feel like she needs to justify her condition is wrong and actually really inappropriate. If a pregnant woman was having an asthma attack would you question if the inhaler was safe? No you'd be pumping away worried that she may die without it! If you genuinely are concerned about the safety of the medications then do your own research via the PSS site and HER Foundation, don't question the sick person that barely has the strength to talk let alone argue!
And here are some things you can, and indeed should, say to a woman suffering with the extreme end of the pregnancy sickness spectrum:
- “How can I help? Would you like me to clean/cook/do some washing/take the kids out for a bit etc etc?”Try to be of practical help so she can rest.
- “How can I reduce your loneliness?” send a text as often as possible to let her know you are thinking of her and there for her. Offer to contact Pregnancy Sickness Support on her behalf to get a support volunteer for her.
- Defend her to others who may be saying the above... stick up for her, raise awareness that it's not her fault and she isn't doing it to herself. Don't just nod along to gossip about her taking medication or being lazy; be loyal to your friend.
Avoiding the first six comments and doing the last three will not only make the world of difference but it will strengthen a friendship and probably earn you a god parent role!