When imagining and daydreaming about the day you will become pregnant, you might envision “the glow”, a perfectly round belly, or the excitement of holding your new bundle of joy. You may think about the side effects- the nausea, the swollen ankles, and so on. But that doesn’t seem to matter because it will all be worth it in the end, right?
My sister, Cassidee, has had a very different experience with her pregnancy. She has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). According to the American Pregnancy Association, HG is “a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance.” You may have heard about it from celebrities such as Kate Middleton or Kelly Clarkson as they have shared some of their own experiences with HG. I wanted bring some awareness to HG, since I have seen the suffering it can cause.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Severe nausea/vomiting
- Vomiting of mucus, bile or blood
- Extreme fatigue
- Excessive salivation
- Fainting or dizziness
- Low blood pressure
- Intravenous fluids (IV)
- Tube feeding
- Bed rest
- Psychotherapy (for depression and anxiety that may accompany HG)
Cassidee’s pregnancy seemed normal at first. She experienced what we thought was just morning sickness. As time went on, however, she never had any relief and was constantly sick. She was given some medication to help, but couldn’t keep anything down, not even the pills. She became very weak and lost a lot of weight. I remember going to pick her up one day and became worried when she wasn’t answering her phone or door. Her husband rushed home from work and found that she had passed out on the kitchen floor. She had made a few trips to the ER by this point, but started having to make daily trips to the hospital for IV therapy. She wasn't able to function and had to quit her job.
After a month of going to the hospital each day, she was able to start home health. Her veins were really struggling getting a new IV every few days. A midline was placed in her arm that is supposed to last several weeks (though she’s now had a couple of those as well). Each Friday, the week's package of fluids and medications arrive at the house. Our Mom has learned to be her nurse and takes care of her each day. Her husband has also been a huge supporter and fantastic nurse.
Symptoms of HG are generally gone by 20 weeks, though in about 10-20% of cases, nausea and vomiting will last until delivery. Cassidee is now 24 weeks and still quite sick, but we’re hoping for her sake that her symptoms will start to fade the closer she gets to her due date.
If you would like more information about Hyperemesis Gravidarum, check out the HER (Hyperemesis Education and Research) Foundation. Their website has many useful tips for how to help women that may be struggling with HG, as well answers to questions such as “How do I know if this is more than morning sickness?” or “Will HG happen every time she is pregnant?”