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Tell Me Baby > Articles > Pregnancy > Prenatal health > Hyperemesis gravidarum: it’s not so easy to “suck it up princess”
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Hyperemesis gravidarum: it’s not so easy to “suck it up princess”

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By Kylie Archer at kidgredients.com.au

When I was first pregnant with my daughter, I’d never heard the term hyperemesis gravidarum. The first time I felt even vaguely unwell was a few days after “pee on a stick day”, when I was on the train mid-afternoon and got caught off guard by the smell of someone’s lunch. At the next station I dived for the doors and threw up in the garden bed on the train station.

And that was just the beginning. People talk about morning sickness, but hyperemesis is a totally different beast. It isn’t a spot of nausea or a feeling of sea sickness that passes: it’s an all-consuming, all-day nausea that stops you from doing everything. At six weeks pregnant I had no choice but to announce my pregnancy to everyone (including my workplace) as I was in hospital, hooked up to an IV, trying to rehydrate.

Even in the hospital overnight, I wasn’t met with concerned faces. There was the common belief that it was “just morning sickness” and that I would get over it.

My first visit with my obstetrician, on the other hand, resulted in being given the medication Zofran (ondansetron), which reduced the vomiting from constant to 10-12 times per day.

I watched the entire winter Olympics from the couch in the lounge room, unable to move for fear of throwing up the tablets I’d taken. I was told it would pass at 10 weeks, then 12, then maybe 14? Probably by the end of the second trimester … but on the way down to theatre for my c-section at 36 weeks and 4 days, I had to stop the orderlies so I could have one last vomit.

You learn a lot about other people when you have hyperemesis gravidarum. You learn that they just don’t understand the severity of it, that they think it is “just morning sickness” or that you are making out it is worse than it is. I almost wish I could have my time again now that Kate Middleton helped make hyperemesis a headline around the world – although, in light of that royal connection, it’s ironic that one of the best lines was from my manager, who just said “suck it up princess”.

Second time around was no better

I shouldn’t really complain about my first pregnancy, because it was easy when compared to my second. When you’ve got a toddler to take care of as well as battling the illness, hyperemesis is terrible. You just want to sit within reach of the loo as the waves of nausea flood you … instead, there are nappies to change, clothes to be washed, dinners to be cooked.

Again, I hoped it would pass.

The risk was, though, that it would play out the same as my first – and it did, with 37 weeks of Zofran twice a day. And no respite. Princess Kate is so much braver than me – there is no way I could have done it three times!

Unfortunately it’s really hard to enjoy pregnancy when you’re suffering so badly. And there’s no “pregnant glow” when you’re throwing up 12 times a day!

It’s often difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. One thing that helped me was a change of scenery – I didn’t throw up the whole time we were in Hawaii!

Top tips on surviving hyperemesis gravidarum

When it comes to hyperemesis, no suggestion of ginger, chamomile tea or dry crackers will work. In fact, what ended up happening was I could no longer even look at dry crackers without feeling unwell. But here’s my advice on getting through it.

  1. Have a bottle of water beside your bed. Drink it before you get up. Why? Because throwing up bile is worse than throwing up water.
  2. Try to cook things you can put in the oven. It means you are less likely to smell them (after smelling them, you probably won’t want them).
  3. Get your groceries delivered. As well as avoiding being stuck in a supermarket mid-spew, there is nothing quite like the smell of BBQ chickens to turn you off ever eating again.
  4. Don’t be a hero. Get advice from your OB or midwife and make sure you get meds if you need them.
  5. Sucking ice chips helps you to stay hydrated (it was one of the few things I could tolerate).
  6. Try not to let your tummy get completely empty, as the nausea will get worse.
  7. Eat whatever you can, whenever you can. Let healthy eating go out the window if all you can face is ice-cream.
  8. Do as much as you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you end up lying on the couch.
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