“I was dismissed continuously as just having “really bad morning sickness” “
Feeling sick or being sick is an unpleasant, but normal part of pregnancy that usually subsides after the first trimester. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) on the other hand is not normal, and is at the extreme end of the pregnancy sickness spectrum, affecting 1-2% of pregnant women.
For this weeks guest blog, Charlotte Howden, HG campaigner, talks us through her experience of this extremely difficult condition.
Charlotte, what was your experience of HG?
For me, HG changed everything. In 2015 I fell pregnant with my one and only son and from 6 weeks I was vomiting what seemed like every hour. My nausea was so debilitating I was unable to leave my bedroom and I couldn’t stomach food and drink. What is so destructive about HG is the cruelty of the symptoms - they work together to make your suffering worse. My heightened sense of smell meant everything in my house was a potential trigger for my sickness and nausea. I very quickly became depressed - I was quite simply in bed being sick continuously for my entire first trimester and as I approached my second trimester it wasn’t getting better.
How do you know if you have HG?
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is characterised as:
· extreme vomiting and nausea in pregnancy
· severe dehydration
· electrolyte imbalance
· more than 5% weight loss
Lesser known symptoms are:
· excessive saliva production
· low blood pressure
· heightened sense of smell
· intrusive and suicidal thoughts, including considering termination
Unlike usual pregnancy sickness, HG rarely ends after the first trimester and can continue throughout the entire pregnancy.
Can HG symptoms be managed? What support is available?
Yes, if you are seen by the right people. Sadly, I was dismissed continuously as just having “really bad morning sickness”, which hindered my recovery. If you are dismissed, get a second opinion, and ask someone to advocate for you as you may find it hard to manage your own care due to your symptoms.
Speak to your GP as soon as possible - HG is managed by anti-sickness medication and rehydration via IV fluids so it is vital to seek help early.
As well as physical support, be mindful of your mental health. HG is a lonely condition and sufferers are much more likely to experience antenatal and postnatal depression. Get support online from the HG support community and speak to the Pregnancy Sickness Support Charity who offer 1-2-1 peer support from women who have suffered HG.
Is there anything I can show my friends, family, and colleagues to explain to them what HG is?
Yes, in 2018 I started filming and producing the world’s first documentary about HG. Sick – The Battle Against HG is now available on Prime Video. It’s a 30 minute film that explores HG through the stories of women who have suffered from it. It is a film that helps to validate women’s experiences and to educate those who have not heard about this condition.