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Journey into the world of hyperemesis gravidarum...
14Oct 13

Mental Health and the legacy of Hyperemesis Gravidarum

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 the post 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!
Mind is a national charity supporting all mental illness, they can provide help in a crisis and give further advice about help local to you. - 
Black Dog Tribe is a social networking platform for people with mental health condition. They offer support and help and a safe community.
PANDAS offer help and support for pre and post natal depression and I've met the woman who runs it... she's clued up on HG.
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.
Finally, I'll say it again - DON'T SUFFER IN SILENCE - GET HELP!

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Thanks for this and I am suffering with depression due to HG pelvic girdle pain and painful bladder. It is so hard to get through each day. I've done 6 months so far and the sad thing is even when I've given birth I will have to go back to work fulltime after 3 months just hope this is all worth it because I don't see much joy at the moment :(
Natalie Morley, 14th October 2013

Oh Natalie, I'm sorry you are suffering so much and I wish you could know now how worth it the end result is but sadly it's nearly impossible to see at this point. Please make sure you get support via PSS and the links I've posted above. There are a number of forums you can access for the various conditions which will help you to pass the days. I know going back at 3 months seems so unfair but you might actually find that by then you'll be pleased to get back to the real world for a bit each week. Unfortunately, a lot of women find the first few months with a new born quite isolating in itself and after months of HG anyway return to work can be a welcome respite. Please don't wait too long to get help - the sooner you do the more chance of avoiding PND you have. X
Spewing Mummy, 14th October 2013

The Book

Hyperemesis Gravidarum - The Definitive Guide by Caitlin Dean

The Kids Book

Hoe to be an HG Hero by Caitlin Dean

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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