Today is International Hyperemesis Awareness Day. If you’ve been a sufferer of this condition you’ll know just how important it is to make mummies aware of the symptoms and the support that is available to them. A complication of pregnancy, this condition results in extreme sickness that goes way beyond morning sickness. Indeed, some mums find themselves hospitalised and suffer emotionally as well as physically due to the impact of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).
Claire’s experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum: “The hardest thing was giving up life as I knew it”
To find out what it’s like living with this debilitating pregnancy condition, we spoke to a Claire Lundy, 34, who lives in Durham in the North East of England with her partner, Rich, their daughter Laila, 9, and the newest addition the family, Zara Rae who is just a few weeks old.
Like all newborns, her arrival was much anticipated and longed for. But is also provided Claire with relief from the extreme sickness she suffered from throughout her pregnancy.
We spoke to the mum-of-two to find out how hyperemesis gravidarum changed her perspective on pregnancy and made her long for her due date like she had never imagined.
“It began as what I would think was normal morning sickness at around 8 weeks,” Claire told us.
“But by 11 weeks I was being sick up to 20 times a day. If I went near food or water I would be sick straight away and any form of movement would set me off as well.”
Soon Claire was physically unable to go into work at her job as a police dispatcher. She spent the majority of her pregnancy completely bed bound and felt guilty about Laila seeing her so ill.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Mum Guilt
“It upset me watching my daughter cry as I vomited everywhere and anywhere and when she asked me if I was going to die it broke my heart. It’s hard for your children to see the change in you because it is so debilitating!”
Relief only came at week 37 when the sickness finally stopped.
“I don’t ever think I will take feeling normal for granted ever again,” Claire says, clearly emotional from reliving something which for ended just a matter of weeks ago.
Now that little Zara Rae is safely here and in her arms, Claire says that it was absolutely worth it, but the experience has left a lasting impression.
“The hardest thing was giving up life as I knew it,” she said.
“Everything literally changed overnight. I was off work for 6 months and I could barely function! I couldn’t hold conversations or take my daughter out or perform even the simplistic of tasks.”
As a usually busy and social mum, feeling useless was hard to accept and there was also a sense of isolation and loneliness.
Tips for Living With Hyperemesis Gravidarum
So what would advice would Claire give to other mums who are living with HG right now?
“I think you just have to realise it’s not forever,” she tells us, explaining that massage provided some light relief by helping her to relax and taking her mind off the constant sickness.
And for those around pregnant mums suffering from hyperemesis, Claire urges you to understand the debilitation of the condition and to seek out the experiences who have been there. Indeed, Claire credits finding other HG sufferers with helping her to get through her own experience.
“Everyone else thinks that HG is just like normal morning sickness but from someone who has had both I can assure you they could not be more different. Just a word of understanding made a huge difference and knowing that it wasn’t going to last forever stopped me going insane. If one more person told me to try ginger I was going to scream!”
Understanding Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Finding Help
To find out more about why hyperemesis affects some pregnancies and not others we got in touch with Caitlin Dean, Chairperson for the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support.
“Why do mothers sometimes suffer from this condition in one pregnancy but not another?” we asked Caitlin.
“We don’t fully understand why some women get hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and others do not but recent research is now strongly pointing towards genetic factors with specific genes identified. We need more research into the cause as that’s what will ultimately lead to a cure for the condition which we don’t currently have.”
While there’s no way of pinpointing when HG will strike, there are some indicators that it could, says Caitlin.
“We know some things increase your chances of developing HG, in particular a close relative having had it and if you had it in a previous pregnancy. However, for most women before a first pregnancy, we don’t have a way of predicting who will and won’t get it and sadly there is nothing specific people can do to reduce the risk of getting it.”
So what help can those around mums suffering from HG offer?
“First of all believe what she is saying about how unwell she is feeling,” says Caitlin.
“Having your illness validated by those around you goes a long way to helping with the psychological toll HG can take on a sufferer. Practical ways they can help is with housework and childcare for people with other children, and staying in contact via text. Helping to advocate with healthcare professionals and/or employers is also a key role for partners and relatives and picking up repeat prescriptions and so on.”
Hyperemesis Gravidarum Peer Support Service
Finally, we asked Caitlin about how former HG sufferers might help others or how current sufferers can find assistance locally. Along with a national helpline run by the charity, Caitlin explains they run a web chat function aimed at those who might struggle to speak on the phone.
There’s also a peer supporter service, which can help you find 1-2-1 support throughout your pregnancy. If you’ve suffered in the past, you can volunteer to help support pregnant women or assist by fundraising and raising awareness.
Finding Help and Real Mum Experiences of Hyperemesis Gravidarum
For more information, visit www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk.
Bump, Baby & You would like to thank Caitlin for helping us to understand HG better.
A big BBY thanks also goes out to Claire for sharing her experience with us – we wish you all the best as you get to know your beautiful little bundle and hope you have a relaxing maternity leave.
You can find more HG stories written by BBY bloggers here on the Bump, Baby & You website, including My Journey With Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Surviving Life With Hyperemesis Gravidarum, The Girl With the Sickness She Can’t Control and My Morning Sickness Experience.