What it is?
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is debilitating morning sickness on evil overdrive. It is not regular morning sickness. It’s your worst hangover and the Noroviruses psychotic older sister. It’s a serious illness that by rough estimate effects 3% of women. It is traumatic. Mothers suffer. I write this from a second party perspective. Personally I had an uncomplicated pregnancy when carrying my son; I ate pasties and ice cream. I ate. My best friend on the other hand survived this for 9 months with both her children. I have a long way to go in understanding it.
So why write this post in retrospect? Awareness and changing your perspective are important steps to help other mothers navigate the choppy waters of HG with more options in their boat. To not feel alone. If we can be sensitive towards a princess with the condition we can be empathetic to everyone else!
5 ways to help someone suffering with HG.
Think before you open your mouth.
Many of us would never intentionally upset a friend but I know that in trying to be supportive at points what I said may not be helpful, because my body wasn’t starving when I was pregnant. I may have been nauseous for a few weeks in the first trimester but she was attached to an IV with her liver failing.
What not to say…
Just have a cracker in the morning. You will be fine in the second trimester. I felt a bit queasy pregnant too. Should you be taking the medicine if it is has risks for your baby? You will forget about all of this when the baby arrives.
You’re asking the wrong questions. Scrap this and just ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ Be kind and compassionate. Listen and believe her.
Lend a hand.
Or two. If you are physically close, help take her to appointments, take the kids for an hour or fiver, don’t wear strong perfume, and offer to lend a hand cleaning the house. Clean if it is helpful, but remind her that your house is a shit tip too. She doesn’t need the guilt and the bleach smell may make things worse.
I should have done more. Don’t get obsessed with saying the wrong thing and fall silent. Isolation and depression are common with HG. Text, send a letter or magazines.
Fight for them.
Be an advocate when other people may not have the strength, or have their head in a toilet bowl. Health care providers can say some incredibly hurtful and ignorant things about HG.
‘At least you won’t have any weight to lose after the baby.’ WTF.
Challenge people for her; help get the help she needs when she is sick. Desperately. Repeatedly.
Understand When She Says “No”.
Don’t turn into a miserable cabbage because she doesn’t come shopping with you, to the pub, or anywhere. Tell her she is a great mum and understand that it has an end date. The date she gets to meet her new baby, and then the challenge of motherhood starts.
5 ways to get through HG.
Manage Your Triggers.
The most everyday things toothpaste or sunlight can leave you gagging. The OH can fend for himself. If you are solo with kids buy readymade meals.
Live off Lucozade, bread, crackers, rehydration sachets, Haribo, ice pops and glucose sweets. Watch for signs of dehydration. Give yourself permission to rest as much as you need, and listen to your body.
Shelf the guilt and shame.
If you have children while dealing with HG, just take it one day at a time. Don’t feel guilty if you have to rely on CBBC. Make everything as easy as possible. Shop online. Ask for help. Don’t feel bad or embarrassed by it. Do what is necessary to cope.
Ask about medications.
Discuss the potential risks and benefits of each and don’t feel pressured into things you are not comfortable with. Telling a mother with HG ‘try a bit of ginger’ is likely not helpful and will make them want to punch you. That said give all the natural remedies a try, pressure point bands, peppermint tea and vitamin B6. Voodoo charms.
Talk to others.
HG is punishing to the mind and body. Look for local or online support groups, and consider seeing a therapist and push for a mental health midwife. I can’t imagine suffering so much that it felt like abortion would be only option.
The round-the-clock uncontrollable vomiting can be brutal for a mum-to-be and carry serious consequences, including dehydration. It leaves women bedridden, malnourished, weak, ruins the joy of pregnancy, strains families, trashes the mother’s body, is punishing on their mental health and in the worst cases, takes lives.
Respect the condition and the people that survive it.
To my bestie and her girls, I am ridiculously proud of you.
You can get through.
Have you experienced HG? Are there any tips you would share with mothers experiencing the same? Things that were really helpful or things that weren’t?