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Journey into the world of hyperemesis gravidarum...
25May 11

Too good to be true...

Well the thought of a Hyperemesis free pregnancy turned out to be too good to be true and a scan today showed that the baby hadn't developed and the heart had stopped beating. We're sad but we had been realistic to the possibility. So now we're faced with the rather unpleasant process of miscarrying it over the next few days. Sadly miscarriage in early pregnancy is very common; this is my second as I lost one before conceiving Alfie, but it doesn't effect our chances of conceiving again and we are not deterred from wanting our third child to complete our family.

On the plus side at least I didn't endure weeks of sickness before loosing it, which has just happened to a poor woman I have been supporting recently... 6 weeks of the worst Hyperemesis Gravidarum I've ever heard of; ruptured oesophagus, jaundice from a failing liver and hair loss, only to loose her baby girl at 12 weeks. Devastating!

Anyway, I will still blog about any treatments and developments I read about and also about some of the women I'm in contact with suffering at the moment. And will let you all know when our journey starts again... I never thought I would wish for nausea but last night I did and I expect I will when I get my next positive test... HG is a bitter sweet condition!

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18May 11

Dates are confusing!!!

Well the good news is that there was a heart beat present on the scan. The explanation for the lack of current sickness is that according to the scan I'm only 5 weeks... which means I had a positive pregnancy test before I was actually pregnant... if you can figure it out then let me know!

Anyway, as any expectant mum does I'll no doubt worry until the baby is actually hear safe and sound but in the meantime I'm enjoying some more sickness free days before I hit the dreaded 6 weeks... and fingers crossed it'll come and go without bucket loads of spew; but maybe some mild nausea just to let me know all is well ;)

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16May 11

Feeling well is bitter sweet

Well so far I'm feeling well... very well! After some nausea and general yuckiness between week 4 and 5 and some adjusting to the pre-emptive meds I have for the last few days been feeling particularly well. You'll be thinking 'Yay! Thank goodness for that'. Sadly for Rob and myself the profound impact Hyperemesis Gravidarum has had on us in the past does not allow us such optimism. Hyperemesis is not morning sickness and each pregnancy is not different, if you've had hyperemesis once then there is a massive chance you'll have it again and potentially worse.

Our initial thoughts are that the baby has died and it's a missed miscarriage; to that end my midwife has arranged us a scan tomorrow to check as obviously the results either way for us are important. I don't want to continue meds if I'm not pregnant and would like to book in work for this month. Rob too could be working on Thursdays which we currently don't have childcare for and we could arrange a weekend away for a treat.

On the other hand I can't help fantasising about a normal pregnancy and how brilliant it would be not to get sick... these thoughts are not positive or helpful! “but think positively and maybe it'll help” I hear you saying. Let me explain... apart from the fact that hyperemesis gravidarum is NOT psychological and therefore positive thinking won't make the blindest bit of difference, the devastation of hyperemesis is profound; I always imagined pregnancy to be the most beautiful and natural thing in the world, I couldn't wait to be pregnant and experience a child growing inside me. Hyperemesis is so traumatic and horrific and pregnancy as a result has been the most awful, painful and depressing time of my life. One of the hardest aspects of hyperemesis is the shear disappointment of not having a 'normal' pregnancy. The feelings of hatred towards your unborn child and the resentment towards your husband, friends and family are hard enough to battle with not to mention the anger and hatred you feel towards yourself for not being able to carry a child normally. It is a serious emotional battle to get through 9 months of HG with very little support and understanding from people around you who ultimately don't get it no matter how hard they try; the disappointment is devastating and the only thing I can avoid this time by not allowing myself to fantasise about not being ill.

The chance of me not getting sick is slim but there is a chance... I just mustn't focus on it. I know people mean to be kind by trying to give me hope of a normal pregnancy but it will be SO SO SO much harder when it does strike if I have built up my hopes.

Right now my thoughts are swinging every moment between the baby being dead and fantasies of a normal pregnancy; I am however enjoying every moment I can without sickness. We had a lovely weekend with the boys and are getting lots of work done on the farm. I'm eating well and enjoying every mouthful and for the first time ever have put weight on during early pregnancy!

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05May 11

Supporting others

I just wanted to quickly blog about the various support networks currently available for Hyperemesis sufferers because since yesterday I have been facebook messaging and texting a young woman in the North of England who is currently in hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum and has torn her oesophagus from vomiting. She is on a ward, not in a side room and it is noisy, bright and smelly... all triggers for hyperemesis!!! She is feeling so low that she wants to die rather than go on suffering and to top it off people keep suggesting she eats ginger! She is in a terrible way and just feels like no-one understands... the reality is no-one can understand unless they have been through it which is why sufferers supporting each is so crucial.

If you find this blog and are suffering with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, perhaps it's not yet diagnosed and it's being called Severe Nausea and Vomiting in pregnancy or you are the partner/mother/friend of someone suffering... there is support out there:

www.helpher.org has fantastic information about everything, there is a section for Mothers, family and friends and for healthcare professionals. There are also forums on there for support.

Www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk is the UK version and is the charity which I am most hoping to raise awareness of.

On facebook there are two main groups:

the UK support group is called Hyperemesis UK and the URL is http://www.facebook.com/search.php?q=wwoof&init=quick&tas=0.6090943993372939#!/pages/Hyperemesis-UK/197019263655727

and the larger international one is called Hyeremesis Gravidarum (when its more then just morning sickness) and the URL is http://www.facebook.com/search.php?q=wwoof&init=quick&tas=0.6090943993372939#!/group.php?gid=2587175083

There are also similar groups on Facebook for Austrailia and Ireland.

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04May 11

here we go!

So things have happened somewhat quicker than expected this time and it turns out I'm already pregnant! We are a little freaked out about it at the moment but we do feel ready for it.

I've started on the Promethazine as I have had nausea from literally the day I turned 4 weeks... which worries me immensely as I was 6 weeks before hyperemesis struck with both the boys.

So I said last time that I would tell you about the other ways we've been preparing. There is a variety of alternative therapies available which I don't doubt can help greatly with normal morning sickness but for me simply don't cut the mustard when it comes to full blown Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

In my previous pregnancies I have tried homoeopathy, reflexology, hypnotherapy and cranial osteopathy without benefit. I have however found potential benefit from acupressure in the form of wristbands, which I have on now and won't take off until I have delivered the baby (2 pairs so I don't need to take them off in the shower/bath) and I will probably need a fresh set after a couple of months as the elastic loosens on them. The benefit I get from them is more psychological than anything - "Have you tried travel sickness bands?" "Yes - see!". I can't be accused of not trying to help myself!

I also have some aromatherapy oil for nausea which I can still tolerate now, although I may not be able to once I'm sick. Ginger can be good in mild cases of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy but for most hyperemesis sufferers even the word ginger can instil such venom that any benefit is likely to be lost to boiling blood! The number of people who, during my first pregnancy, in all kindest, asked if I had tried ginger biscuits/tea/beer etc... The problem is, when you're too sick to keep tablets down the chance of keeping down biscuits is zero! Also, ginger flavoured products are really unpleasant to regurgitate! In the last pregnancy I did take ginger capsules for a while at the start but they were so awful that it just made it worse. There is a brand of sucky sweets and ice pops called preggie pops, designed to reduce nausea, which I have stocked up on... I found them a little helpful in the first pregnancy.

Acupuncture is supposed to be very beneficial but I needed a therapist who would come to the house as travel to a clinic is impossible in the early weeks and I have yet to find one.

Other things I have done in preparation include buying a kindle as the weight of books made it hard to hold and page turning was too much movement and induced vomiting. Also in the early weeks reading is out of the question anyway so I have downloaded some audio books to listen to. I've also bought new bedsheets and some maternity pyjama bottoms as anything touching my stomach is painful.

I've spoken to the dentist to get advice (brushing my teeth makes me sick and obviously all the vomiting is bad for my teeth) and I have a small tooth brush with a soft head and a special mouth wash for after emetic episodes which will protect the enamel.

In my next blog I'll tell you about the research surrounding the medication I am currently on.

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03May 11

Preparing for pregnancy

I am a bit of a hippy at heart and when I got pregnant for the first time I was so excited about having a healthy, natural, glowing pregnancy. I would not take medication or drink any alcohol, caffeine or unnatural colours/flavours etc. In preparation for the pregnancy I had cut right back on the alcohol and had been taking all my prenatal vitamins and so on.

Then Hyperemesis Gravidarum struck! By week 7 I admitted defeat and agreed to take some cyclizine; an anti-histamine which has been around for donkeys years. I was too ill to look up any research about the drug I just had to go with it. By week 8 I was admitted to hospital and receiving medication intravenously (IV) and had no idea what they were giving me. This caused huge distress as I was already confused from dehydration and drowsy from the cyclizine I really was in no fit state to provide informed consent and had no idea what was going on.

This scenario is exactly what I am trying to avoid this time. Obviously the first time we didn't know in advance that I would be ill but the situation in the second pregnancy was little better because although I knew about the medication and was happy to take it, having read all the available research out there, the GP's were throwing doubt into my mind and trying to manipulate me into not taking them, against the consultants advice, which one even admitted was down to prescribing budgets; “I have one of the lowest prescribing rates in the county”. It is very hard to advocate for yourself or to make informed decisions and choices when you are in the throws of an horrific sickness like hyperemesis, compounded by medication that causes drowsiness but doesn't improve symptoms. Self advocacy for hyperemesis gravidarum sufferers is near on impossible.

So... I have changed GP and my new one was more than happy to make an action plan and set criteria for monitoring the effectiveness of the medication and boundaries for when to move on. She has read up on the safety of the treatments and is happy to liaise with my carers about my treatment (another battle in the past as there is a prejudice against the use of private midwives in some areas) or with specialists as required. Here is our plan, based on current research and what has worked for me before:

  • Take B6 prior to pregnancy 
  • Take promethazine or cyclizine at start of pregnancy/first whiff of nausea 
  • If they don't control sickness then start metocloprimide 
  • If that's not enough then add in ondansatron (with laxatives for managing side effects, but I'll take her lead on this as I'm not sure what will work best for me) 
  • If needed then take out metocloprimide and add in domperidone (I found this combination quite good last time) 
  • once over 12 weeks then consider steroids (this is the only aspect she is not happy with as she feels the research doesn't look enough at foetal outcomes and I would probably need to go through the consultant; Ms. Watkins at Trellisk has been recommended as having a special interest in HG via Dr Roy Taylor who I contacted through the HelpHer website... a very helpful man!) I'll tell you more about steroid therapy in a future blog. 
  • What I do NOT want to try is Stemetil (sent me wakko!)
Criteria for moving on to the next step is vomiting >4 times a day and other measurable aspects such as weight loss; >5% total body weight loss will require intervention and dehydration; <500ml of urine in 24hrs needs admission for fluids (or hospital at home if available in my area) and altering the medication regime. I'll monitor my urine output with a measuring jug I bought and will keep a fluid balance sheet in the bedroom; my husband and midwife will be mainly responsible for this if I'm drowsy/confused etc. I have bought some ketosticks to monitor the presence of ketones (which your body produces when fat reserves are broken down; a sign of malnutrition) in my urine but I don't agree with it as a test really because I don't kick out ketones until I'm virtually dead whereas other people will have ketones in their urine after a few hours of mild dehydration; which is why urine output is a more accurate test.

I've also given my new GP permission to liaise with my husband, midwife and children's nanny (as there will be times that she will be the only responsible adult in the house) so she can discuss my care on the phone with them. My new GP works Monday, Tuesdays and Thursdays so she has documented the plan and will discuss it with the other GPs in case I need help on her days off. They are prepared for the fact I'll need home visits too.

The relief Rob and I feel at having this plan in place is just indescribable and having been in a consultation with a GP who didn't make me feel selfish and pathetic for being ill was a huge boost in my confidence to be able to make it through this pregnancy... I feel like we are a team and we have direction.

In my next blog I will tell you about all the 'alternative' ways we are preparing for this pregnancy.

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I was never diagnosed, and I think they tuhhgot it not possible but I honestly believe this is what I went through in the final weeks of my pg. I had persistent nausea in the 1st tri, but then was fine until the final month. I got violently ill, and it all started with severe back pain. I was in the hospital for 4 days the first time, on iv and miserable and felt so alone. My doc was very nice, and dealt with some GI docs as well everyone was very nice, and didn't treat me like I was crazy, but they never came up with a diagnosis. Toward the end, all they could do was IV bag me a few hours and send me home. My husband would get mad at me if I wasn't scarfing down water or gatorade my four year old would stand at my side and make me drink constantly. I was drinking what I could! I suspect because HG normally happens sooner in the pg. I googled my symptoms after I got home from the hospital and it all matched up except I got it so late in the pg. They ended up inducing me, followed by a c-section b/c I wouldn't dialate. He was almost 3 weeks early, but fine luckily. I didn't feel better until 6 weeks at least afterward, and my weight loss was alarming. People still ask me if I'm ok and it was a year ago. To anyone going through this, don't be afraid to take the nausea medications (they had me on two different ones), it may feel like it doesn't help, but if you stop you feel the difference. I was scared to take any medications, but was assured that it was ok and trusted my docs.
Valeriaestefani, 28th December 2014

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About Me

I am mother of three beautiful children and wife to a fantastic and supportive husband. I am a nurse, a farmer and a trustee for Pregnancy Sickness Support. I love working hard and spending time with my kids.

About this blog

Information and support for pregnancy sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum. Views are my own and do not represent those of any other organisation. Information provided here should not be a substitute for medical advice. My aim is to raise awareness and encourage sufferers to know they are not alone.

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