Hyperemesis gravidarum: the truth

At around 5 weeks pregnant, I suddenly felt incredibly nauseous. Everyday activities like walking, brushing my teeth and even putting the kettle on were all triggers for my involuntary retching. The simple act of bending down to spit my toothpaste out began to make me vomit.

I got to a point where sitting in the same room as my husband and son as they had their tea became impossible. The smells made my tummy curdle with acid and sent my heaving into overdrive.

As the nausea progressed, and my intake of both solids and fluids dwindled, I was forced to go to the doctor to ask for help.

You’ve got more chance of hooking up with Brad Pitt than getting a same day appointment at my doctors’ surgery, so there I lay in bed, awaiting the inevitable call back from one of the twenty odd doctors at the practice. It went something like this:

Me: Hello there, thanks for calling me back.

Doctor: (sounding very unimpressed) You requested a call back?

Me: Well, I was hoping to seek advice really. I’m incredibly sick and nauseous; I have been for around 5 weeks now. (Voice trembling with emotion)

Doctor: Right, first baby?

Me: Second. My son was a dreamy pregnancy.

Doctor: Right, well, we’ve got different anti sickness medications you can try. They’re all safe to use. One can go under your top lip and one you can just swallow. Which would you like?

Me: (silent. Feeling very vulnerable and upset at the complete lack of empathy she’d shown) Well…I’m a little cautious to take anti sickness. I’m worried it may harm-

Doctor: (interjecting curtly / now sounding truly exasperated) -I’ve just told you they’re safe to use.

This ‘conversation’ culminated in the rude and uncaring doctor writing me a prescription for my first anti sickness medication, whilst adding that I should try small meals and ginger.

Ginger?! If someone tells me again that ginger is the cure to this sickly state, then I swear I’ll turn into a wailing, Victorian madwoman, tearing my hair out and rolling on the floor. Ginger?! It doesn’t do a thing. Nothing helps! I want to vomit, all day, everyday. It’s actually a momentary relief when I do as I get about 5 seconds reprieve from the stomach stripping nausea and retching.

I’m now on my 5th anti sickness medication, and second hospital admission.

When I was first admitted to hospital, it was my husband who dragged me there. He missed a day of work as I was simply too weak to look after my son. Honestly, I felt as though my body was shutting down. Fluids and solids were not going in; I was faint and extremely dehydrated. The medication I was on did not help, at all. In fact, my darling husband told me yesterday that I looked like a corpse, with burnt, dried up lips.

I could hear the murmurings of his pleas on the phone to the surgery from the bed, followed by urgent footsteps coming up the stairs.

“Right, I need you to pee in this. Then we need to get you to the doctor.”

He was holding a battered munchkin 360 cup in one hand and our bored, butter covered toddler precariously in the other. Looking back now, this was hilarious, but all I could think of at the time was: how am I going to pee?

By this point, I hadn’t been to the toilet for what felt like days.

With the bedroom swirling around me and my head beating worse than a violent, freshers’ week hangover, I got to the toilet, unscrewed the munchkin 360 and squeezed a minuscule drop of hot, burnt orange Tango – looking urine into the cup.

When we arrived at the doctors’ surgery, my now truly fed-up and unentertained child spotted the blue cup he had once loved, which now housed my hot, sticky pee.

All hell broke loose.

Flinging himself on the floor, he screamed repeatedly, ‘my cup! Mine! Miiiiine!’ Neither my husband nor I had the energy to sort out the screeching demon in front of us. I was leaning limply on the wall and my husband, fed-up and now absolutely exhausted, began to try and shove the cup into his tiny pocket.

I remember her face when I sat weakly in front of her. The doctor caught sight of my parched lips and huge, dark bags, and quickly began testing my urine. Holding the testing strip in her hand, she urgently announced:

“I’m going to send you straight to hospital. I want you to go there now, guys, okay?”

I’ve got to hand it to them. The staff at the hospital, on both occasions, were truly fantastic. With speedy efficiency, they filled me with precious liquid through a drip, and regulated my nausea with anti sickness in liquid form. Within 24 hours, I felt like me again: reenergised and alert, not zombified.

I’m now on two separate anti sickness, six times a day. Although the nausea is still there, the sickness has gone and I able to eat and drink more than I have done in weeks. Here’s hoping there’s light coming.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a serious condition. It’s not only incredibly debilitating, painful and isolating for the woman, it also has a huge impact on her family’s lives.

Ginger won’t help, but support and love from family and friends will add warmth and comfort to anyone battling with hyperemesis.