Choosing to have Hyperemesis Gravidarum Again
There seems to be increasing speculation about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge planning another baby and I'm getting calls and emails for interviews on the subject due to the Duchess's history of hyperemesis gravidarum. Honestly, who would want to be famous eh... The pressure for that poor woman to have to go through hyperemesis again is appalling! It's bad enough that she doesn't seem to have a choice about whether or not to go through it again... She can't even do it in her own time scale! The media seem to be demanding she get on with it and her baby is only 10 months old.
"Every pregnancy is different and she might not have it again" I hear from the uneducated camp... Well I'm all about education so let me tell you the fact of the matter. Once a woman has had hyperemesis gravidarum she has an 86% chance of getting it again in subsequent pregnancies. So it's not a factor to ignore when thinking about timing of subsequent pregnancies.
Let me spell out for you just what the decision for the average women with a history of hyperemesis gravidarum is like... You're not just deciding to have another baby, as if that decision on its own is an easy one for responsible people that factor in finances, quality of life, work balance and human population issues into the decision about bringing a new life into the world. Women with a history of hyperemesis gravidarum also have to think about the fact that they will miss out on up to nine months of caring for their first beloved child. They have to consider how their family finances will cope while they are off sick (admittedly not such an issue for the Duchess but her public life role is a very demanding one and difficult to take time off from). Who will look after their child while they are sick, how will their partner cope if they are admitted to hospital, who will cook tea for them after work, who will sort all the washing and cleaning and other household tasks that just don't happen when a woman is sick.
Many women worry about the emotional impact on their first child who suddenly is without mum for months on end and it can be difficult for them. There will be times when the smell of their first child induces retching and vomiting which is really distressing. Then there is the relationship strain as partners are forced into a single parent role for their child and nursemaid to their loved one who is suffering horribly. They too may be relegated to a spare room due to the blood hound nose of an HG sufferer. And the pressure on friendships which turn out not to be so strong in times of need or the tensions it raises with relatives who don't "get it" and can be insensitive to the battle.
But most of all it's the choice to put yourself through the absolute torture that is hyperemesis all over again. It's the knowing just how sick you will be and remembering the constant torture of nausea night and day for 280 days. The weight loss and feelings of malnutrition and dehydration and the dizziness, headaches and pain that those cause. It's the knowledge that the drugs only help a bit really and that most of them have side effects that are almost as unpleasant as the vomiting anyway. And that's only if you can get the treatment you need in the first place as many women in the UK are still denied proper treatment for hyperemesis.
It's knowing that you'll go weeks or months unable to shower without vomiting, unable to brush your teeth without gagging, retching and more vomiting, that you'll have 24 hours to pass for each of those 280 days where it feels you are utterly alone in your nauseated nightmare. Some days getting out of bed will be impossible, other days just rolling over in bed will be difficult.
So you see it's not an easy choice to make. Nine months is a long time to be sick for. But many (by no means all though) of us do choose to go through it again despite the nightmare ahead once the decision has been made. Why? Because ultimately it is worth it in the end if we want more biological children and we are willing to suffer hell and back for our children. Although sadly for many women the ability to survive another hyperemesis pregnancy is impossible, whether that's physically, mentally or financially and their families are therefore unwillingly limited - for them family, friends and society generally needs to be supportive and drop the "pressure to produce".
We all hope to be one of the 14% of sufferers who go on to have a normal pregnancy after hyperemesis but those chances are slim and that's why planning and timing are important. Plan for the worst, hope for the best is my motto. If your careful planning and preparation aren't required and you fly through the pregnancy then brilliant, no harm done than a little wasted time... But if hyperemesis stricken again then being prepared is absolutely key to survival.
Remember, making plans and preparation for the worst is not going to increase your chances of suffering but it may reduce your suffering if hyperemesis strikes again and make the nine months easier to cope with.
Over the next few weeks watch out for posts specific to planning and preparation for hyperemesis gravidarum for both women suffering, their families and healthcare professionals caring for women with a history of HG.
Employment rights for spewing mummies
I've been advising a friend of mine this week who works for a big, well known supermarket in the UK and is being treated unfairly due to pregnancy sickness. Like 30% of pregnant women she has needed to have a few days off work because she's spewing up constantly. Now I don't know about you but I don't particularly want people spewing up at work in the supermarket I shop in... Clearly she needs to be off for a bit.
But her employer is being difficult about it and saying they may have to look at disciplinary action if she phones in sick again... Despite knowing that she is pregnant. This is a depressingly common story and is an unacceptable situation! They are also threatening to demote her from her role, which is outright illegal!
Rest is an important part of self managing pregnancy sickness and for some women could prevent symptoms escalating into full blown Hyperemesis Gravidarum. In the UK we are entitled to take time off work for sickness and we are also entitled to not be discriminated against or treated unfairly when pregnant. Obviously your employer needs to know you are pregnant for your rights to be triggered so it's a good idea to tell them straight away if you are phoning in sick due to pregnancy. It can't then be recorded on your normal sickness record or used against you in disciplinary or dismissal cases.
Women have always had a tough time when it comes to employment rights and there are still sectors today where we earn less than men. But if government and society want women to work outside of the home and also to continue populating the world with people to continue the human race then they need to start treating us better in the work place!
Personally I was so lucky with my employers during my pregnancies. They were very supportive and kind... Working for NHS GP practices as a nurse you would hope for good practice although I know other nurses and even doctors who have suffered terribly at the hands of their employers.
It's not just the women suffering that can face discrimination either. A good friend of mine's husband lost his job during her second hyperemesis pregnancy as he had to take time off work to care for their first child while she was in hospital! Imagine sacking someone because his wife is in hospital... What sort of society do we live in?
So what can you do if you are having problems at work? Know your rights and let your employer know that you know them! Print off the information for employers from the PSS website and give it to your manager along with your sick note. Read the page for employees too, there are links there for where to get extra help from Citizens Advice and Maternity Action. If fighting for your rights yourself is too difficult when you are sick then perhaps ask your partner or a relative to advocate for you. Get them to explain the situation to your manager - they can say they've been looking into entitlements and so on in a gentle way that hopefully won't make your return to work awkward. Like with doctors, it's about trying to form a partnership with the employer so that they feel like you are being proactive and not just difficult.
You also don't need to feel like you have to take action whilst still sick. If your employer treats you unfairly during pregnancy then once you are recovered and have the strength you can then take action to exercise your rights and claim compensation.
We need to start standing up to the prejudices and unfairnesses we experience so that society can improve and develop for the good of our daughters and granddaughters. Illegal practice needs not just to stop but to become socially unacceptable and no longer tolerated by women the way they are now. It is small minded bosses and colleagues who have never actually been ill themselves that perpetuate myths and nonsense about women in employment and pregnancy sickness... Education and action is the way forward.
Perseverance Pays Off
I'm currently living for a couple of weeks with my husband and kids on a Stone Age living skills centre in the depths of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. We're sleeping in a tent despite the snow and there are bears, mountain lions, coyotes and all sorts of other wild animals padding past us each night while we sleep. In the day we collect firewood and edible plants for dinner, practice making fire by friction and our knife carving skills. Most days I try to nip down the road to get some Internet connection in order to check my emails and respond to the more important ones... Mainly those concerning hyperemesis gravidarum sufferers, past, present and future.
Today my 6 year old son achieved something amazing. He carved a spoon from a piece of wood using his pen knife. It has taken him three whole days of fairly constant work. He has blisters on his little hands and his arm is aching. But it was worth it. It is beautiful. And it is practical! Rob and I supported him, we helped a little with the curvy neck bit and I gouged out the bowl with the finger slicing crook knife but mainly we just supported and encouraged. I am so so so proud of his achievement.
He really persevered with the task, through the tough bits and the cuts and the sores. Early on with his lump of wood - a half log you would throw on the fire - it didn't resemble a spoon in the slightest and the task looked almost impossible, he didn't lose hope. He just sat by the fire and pressed on. And with each stroke of his knife on the hard, dry wood the spoon came a little more into his sight. In the middle, when you could sort of see the shape but there was still an awfully long way to go doing more of the same, he didn't get bored, he kept on carving, through snow and wind and hail. Towards the end when the spoon shape was there but he then had four rounds of sanding to go before it was finished he didn't give up, or try to rush through it. He worked carefully with the different grades of sand paper to get the beautiful smooth finish it deserved.
When it was finally finished I helped him carve an A on the top for Alfie, we stained it with charcoal to show it up. We washed the spoon, oiled it and he ate his dinner with it tonight. And as he ate with his hard earned spoon I looked around at my three beautiful children. Perseverance paid off.
I will continue to persevere on behalf of hyperemesis gravidarum sufferers around the world until I have achieved my goals. This Thursday, 15th May, is International Hyperemesis Awareness Day, it is also my daughters 2nd Birthday. I am raising awareness here on the Stone Age Living Skills centre with a Big Brew event of tea, cakes and talk. For those of you still pregnant, just focus on persevering, but for those of you who have suffered in the past... Persevere with me.
It's no wonder Alfie worked so hard and endured so much for his spoon... He's a Hyperemesis Survivor!
Vote for me to get Hyperemesis Gravidarum the recognition it deserves
How to get an under-appreciated and misunderstood condition the recognition it needs to get respectful and effective treatment for sufferers... blog about it. And keep blogging and blogging and blogging. That's pretty much what I'm doing, as well as helping to run a charity to support the condition and writing a book on hyperemesis gravidarum.
My prolific blogging has lead to a couple of unexpected turns for me. I have, much to my surprise and deep honour been nominated for not one, but two prestigious blogging awards... proper ones with ceremonies and all!
The exciting thing about these awards is that it really does draw so much attention to hyperemesis gravidarum and the desperate need for improvement in care and treatment for it. As all you regular readers know this blog is all about highlighting the reality of hyperemesis, speaking out against poor care and promoting best practice, as well as providing support and strength to sufferers and their partners. And ultimately furthering the Hyperemesis Improvement Movement. So the more people that see it the more people will understand and appreciate the impact of hyperemesis gravidarum on sufferers around the world.
The MAD Blog Award category I've been short-listed in is for Outstanding Contribution and it's not a category you can vote for, it's up to a panel of judges. Despite being on a year out travelling with our children around North America my husband has kindly supported my desire to return for the award ceremony in September and I have booked flights from where in Canada I think we will be at the time so I'm all set to return – fingers crossed I win now!
The Brilliance in Blogging (BiB) Award I've been short-listed in is Commentary and Campaigns and for this I need your help... to get into the finals I need as many votes as possible. Click on the link below or above and vote for this Spewing Mummy Blog to win the Campaigns and Commentary category.
Getting through to the short-list for this is such an honour already but to actually get through to the final or even to win would be incredible. The awareness that can be raised for hyperemesis gravidarum would be phenomenal. The winners are announced at the Britmums live event in June where thousands of parent bloggers will be watching, this is our opportunity to let all of them know about hyperemesis and the horrific truth about the suffering it causes.
Thank you all my loyal readers, I truly appreciate your support.
Oh and if you are heading over there to vote then bear in mind that my colleague, friend and fellow HG veteran Emma Edwards (newly appointed trustee of PSS) has also had her Adventures of Adam blog nominated in the “fresh voice” category. She wrote a guest post on here last month about the toddler activities for mums suffering hyperemesis gravidarum she features on her brilliant site. So be sure to vote for her in the fresh voice category too and we'll have HG awareness wrapped up at the BiBs!
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In conjunction with Pregnancy Sickness Support and Plymouth University I am looking for women who have been treated for HG in the last 2 years in the UK to take part in a research survey. Please click here to find out more.
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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