Guest Post: Hyperemesis Gravidarum – Understanding the Spectrum of Illness

Welcome to day 2 of 9 of guest posts here on my blog. I didn’t want to leave my blog a barren wasteland whilst I take some time out so a group of lovely bloggers offered to write a post and share some thoughts, recipes, ideas and crafts with you.  

Today is a fascinating post from Spewing Mummy, a blogger who is one of the finalists in the Outstanding Contribution Category at this years MAD Blog Awards.

Caitlin post

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a rare complication of pregnancy which, in addition to being horrendous to experience, can actually be very dangerous for the sufferer. Unfortunately, the condition is often confused with the more common and far milder symptoms of morning sickness, which is a normal part of pregnancy. Many women welcome morning sickness as a reassuring sign of a normally developing foetus.

But in reality, comparing HG to morning sickness is like comparing stubbing your toe to getting a bullet in your knee cap. Yes, morning sickness, like stubbing your toe, is unpleasant and can make you feel awful, but it’s short lived and doesn’t have long term or serious implications for your health. Getting shot in the knee (or hyperemesis gravidarum) however would result in hospital admissions, unimaginable levels of pain, months of recovery and potentially years of complications.

They are extreme examples, but they do work quite nicely as a demonstration of the differences and we can take it further to demonstrate all the levels in between, from a broken toe, to a fractured ankle or a complicated break… they all take different levels of treatment and cause different levels of disability in the short, medium and long term.

So what is normal and what is not? Well, my colleagues and I at Pregnancy Sickness Support believe that if your symptoms are causing distress and preventing normal life, such as going to work or being able to cook dinner, then they are heading towards the extreme end of the nausea and vomiting in pregnancy spectrum. Symptoms which cause you to stop your normal activities of daily living need treatment and support.

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Further down the line, if your symptoms are preventing you eating and drinking and you are getting dehydrated or losing significant weight then you definitely need treatment. If your current doctor isn’t helpful it’s worth persevering and finding one who will treat you appropriately as there are plenty of great doctors out there.

Some key facts about hyperemesis gravidarum:

  • Pregnancy sickness is on a spectrum of severity from mild symptoms known as “morning sickness” to life threatening symptoms which result in multiply hospital admissions and requiring strong anti-sickness treatment to survive
  • What determines why one woman has it worse than others is unknown at present although there is a clear genetic factor as women with a family history have a 35% chance of suffering
  • If you are suffering you need to get help and treatment. If your doctor isn’t helpful then contact the national charity Pregnancy Sickness Support for help
  • Signs to watch for include vomiting more than 5 times a day, losing more than 5% of your pre-pregnancy weight, signs of dehydration such as weeing less than every 8 hours or drinking (and keeping down) less than 500 mls over a whole day
  • Although there is no cure for HG, there are medications which can limit it’s severity and have lots of research about their safety for use in pregnancy
  • Un-treated HG can lead to serious complications during and after pregnancy so if you are suffering, seek help

It can be difficult to make friends and relatives appreciate the severity of what you are experiencing and there are lots of posts specifically for them on my Spewing Mummy blog which you could email to them or post on your social media. Many people just don’t know how to support and sympathise and attempts to give advice can end up sounding insensitive or cruel to the woman in the depth of intense suffering.

If you are worried that you or a friend is suffering hyperemesis then you can get in touch with the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support who can provide information and support. I also have lots of information on my Spewing Mummy website about how to advocate for yourself or a loved one and how to get the help you need. The book Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Definitive Guide, which I have co-authored with my colleague Amanda Shortman, is due out in September and you can keep up with updates about its release by signing up here.

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About me: A three time hyperemesis gravidarum survivor I now dedicated my time and energy in to raising awareness about the condition, providing support to sufferers and writing prolifically on the subject. As a registered general nurse I’m also involved in research and health care professional education about HG. I have three children and have just returned from six months travelling around

Find Spewing Mummy on her blog, on Facebook and on Twitter

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