Learning about Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Why should I read this blog?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a very misunderstood, rare, and lonely condition. There are many women out there, suffering, that don't realize that what they're going through is more than morning sickness. This is my pittance, my effort to make the world a better place and to remedy that. Whether you are here for yourself, for a loved one, or for education (good for you!), I hope that this blog will help. As I write each post, I envision you, the reader, and I, in my living room; the two of us having a heart to heart. I tried to emulate the conversations I have had in the past, to answer the questions they asked me, and certainly the questions I know I had. I hope you find this to be a very pleasant conversation. :)
So, without further ado...

What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a severe disease in pregnant women who have debilitating nausea and vomiting. Before this information goes any further, it should be clearly understood that Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is not to be affiliated with “morning sickness,” but is to be understood as something else all entirely. The good news is that HG only affects 0.5-3% of all pregnant women, and most affected women, (the exception being as little of  5%) have a lessening of symptoms after about 20-25 weeks. Doctors diagnose HG patients when their symptoms are within the parameters of, “…unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids. If severe and/or inadequately treated, it is typically associated with:

  • loss of greater than 5% of pre-pregnancy body weight (usually over 10%)
  • dehydration and production of ketones
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • metabolic imbalances
  • difficulty with daily activities.”
(see www.helpher.org)

Now, it is entirely possible to have terrible morning sickness and not have it be Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It is possible to have different levels of severity and intensity of HG as well. If you identify with these symptoms it can help you see where you stand.

Still unsure? If you are currently pregnant and suffering, you are eligible to take this survey. I highly recommend using this resource, as that it can give you a peace of mind of knowing where you stand so that you can better advocate for yourself to medical professionals.  

Click here for survey

Here is an excellent video giving a detailed explanation of what the difference is between morning sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It also depicts some of the things that women with HG experience mentally and physically; you'll see how loved ones of an HG patient can support them and what they can expect. 

If I do have Hyperemesis Gravidarum...what's next?

First, realize that you're not alone. Women are suffering around the globe, and there are resources and support groups to help you. It is not going to be easy, and your friends, spouses, and loved ones may not always understand and may need time and education to understand what you're going through in order to give you the support you need. But you can do it!! There is a Facebook group designed for HG patients primarily, but also for loved ones who are interested. To request to join, access the page here.

Next, educate yourself and loved ones. It's going to be touch and go for a while, but it's easier to fight the beast if you understand it. Here are some excellent resources. (For the books, check your library or even the used section on Amazon. Some are as little as 1 cent without shipping!)

Click on Image for General Website

Click on Image, Based in the UK

Another resource blog from another HG patient, titled "Spewing Mummy." 

Except that it's not morning sickness. :)

What are different treatments I can try?

Again, if you have Hyperemesis Gravidarum, it's unlikely that "morning sickness remedies" have worked for you. And, the chances are, you have had a load of advice from people that mean well, but likely haven't experienced HG themselves. In a survey I conducted, I asked 134 women if morning sickness remedies such as ginger, crackers, bland foods, little sips, small meals, sea bands, etc helped them with their HG. Below are the results. 

Out of the 134 women, 123 women said it didn't help at all, 9 said it only helped a little bit, 2 said that they noticed a difference that did not eliminate their HG, and none, I repeat, none said that their HG could be controlled by diet alone. Convinced that Hyperemesis Gravidarum and morning sickness are two different things yet? 

Here is a video clip showing what the life of a HG patient is like, and at the end it goes into detail about different treatment options.

This chart is from a survey that asked what medications significantly helped them in treating their HG. There is a total of 2,703 responses. (Multiple responses allowed per person) It should be noted that not all medications are anti-emetics, there is a number of acid reducing medications as well, and they have been found to help when used in addition. There were also a few other responses that while they did not directly pertain to vomiting, they were still used in the treatment of HG. They included:  Benadryl (17 responses), Remeron (2 responses), Midrin (for HG induced migraines, 1 response), and Ativan (1 response.) For a more, in depth response, go to my "Treatment Options for HG" here.

However, there are times that medications won't be enough. Some, like myself, don't find any respite, medications don't bring relief. In cases where this is true, and the condition of the Hyperemesis Gravidarum patient is severe enough, drastic measures need to be taken. This group of the HG patient population is rare. I asked 86 different women who had to go to extreme measures for their care, what treatments they had. Some had only one of the following options, and some had a combination. Again, I'll go in depth on these treatments here.

How will Hyperemesis Gravidarum affect me?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is no picnic. It's a time of uncertainty, loneliness, misery, and feeling absolutely crummy. It is truly a labor of love for your utterly precious baby, though sometimes it'll feel like you're having the life sucked out of you by this same said little being that you're supposed to dote on and cherish. Talk about a conflict of interest! This time will affect those that love you too: your spouse, family, friends, bosses, co-workers, and more. Some may have a hard time understanding why you are in the state you are, and may say some very hurtful and callous things. It's okay to be upset by these things, but try to be patient, it's more likely than not they are borne out of ignorance and frustration, because they don't know how to help you. And HG patients, as I can attest, can look back at their experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum and realize the character building things that they have learned from it, that though you may not want to repeat the experience anytime soon, perhaps you wouldn't change it in hindsight. That said, there are also health concerns that you need to be aware of. HG is vomiting, a lot of vomiting, and likely without any symptom free periods. "This leads to rapid and significant weight loss, dehydration, electrolyte disturbances, ketosis and acetonuria often requiring hospitalization. If these derangements are not treated promptly or adequately, they can lead to fetal loss, and irreversible renal, neurologic, and hepatic damage."(helpher.org) Realize that the monster you're dealing with is very real, and do everything in your power to get the medical and emotional help you need for you and for your baby.

How long does Hyperemesis Gravidarum last?

Despite what people say, if you're suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, it is completely normal to still be suffering after 14 weeks. I did a survey asking 208 women how long their HG lasted, and got the following results.

As you can tell, there is no "cookie cutter" answer. However chances are you're in one of two categories, you either will feel symptoms around the time you get a positive pregnancy test  until birth, or  your symptoms will abate around 20-25 weeks. You'll notice that there are some categories that include post partum; yes, that does happen. Most women feel almost instant relief from HG upon the birth of their child; we share funny stories of us feeling suddenly ravenous and eating random and large quantities of food. Me? After both pregnancies, I ate a large sandwich or hamburger with plenty of fries. And salad! Looots of salad! I still threw up sporadically first for three days, the second time for two weeks, but overall, I was a new woman! ***You will notice that in the beginning I put that as little as 5% have their HG last full term. These were my findings according to the survey I did, but that is the consistent statistic put forth by the medical community. I debated including it or not, but decided to on the basis that it could show the different variances within the groups***

It's not unusual to have other effects as well. Things like: aversions or nausea when smells, sights, sensations, and foods that used to trigger you are present, depression, and even post traumatic stress disorder. (Go here to see one woman's experience with PTSD from HG.) Get help! Talk to your doctor and loved ones about your concerns, as my mother always says, "pregnancy is a family affair." It truly takes a village to raise a child with an HG survivor!

How likely am I to repeat Hyperemesis Gravidarum pregnancies?

Unfortunately, pretty likely. I conducted a survey asking women who have had multiple pregnancies, which pregnancies they had Hyperemesis Gravidarum with. This survey did not include morning sickness, focusing only on patients that felt the full affect of HG in their pregnancy. As you can see from the chart above, out of the 257 women that I asked, 100 said that they only had HG pregnancies. But you may fit in some of the other categories: 26 said they only had it in their second pregnancy, and not their first, 19 said they only had one HG pregnancy, 11 said they had it in their successful pregnancies, but not the babes that miscarried, 14 said they had HG in MOST but not all their pregnancies (most being defined as more than half), 3 said they had HG in SOME but not all their pregnancies (some being defined as about half), and 3 said they had HG in a FEW, but not all their pregnancies (few being defined as less than half.) In addition to this information, I asked women if with the all HG multiple pregnancies they had, if each pregnancy's severity got worse or better. As you can tell, the overwhelming result is that they got worse. If you fit in this category thus far, take courage. If you feel like there are more sweet babies to be in your family, (and this decision is purely between you, your spouse, and God!) Choose to know that more likely than not, this is going to be your reality and plan accordingly.

This is an excellent video that gives a brief overview of what Hyperemesis Gravidarum is, and includes the experience of a mother that had more severe, subsequent pregnancies.

Pregnant ladies and loved ones....you can do this! Please don't suffer silently, fight for yourself and your baby! Explore this blog, read the resources cited, join the Facebook group! And of course, make your doctor aware of your concerns. If you are less than thrilled with your medical professionals, go to this post to see if there is a "Hyperemesis-Gravidarum-friendly-doctor" in your area. 


And to all readers everywhere, please share something HG related on your social media. It can be a meme, a picture, video, or even my blog. I don't care! But there are many babies that have their lives cut short, either by a mother not getting the treatment that they stand in such dire need of, or by a desperate, untreated mother who seeks an abortion. Statistics show that since 2015, the creation of the Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) Facebook group has lessened abortions due to absent or poor treatment by 15%! Make a difference, save a life, share what you've learned and chalk it up as your good deed for the day. And while you're at it, thank the mothers in your life, especially yours, she did make you after all! The world is filled with some pretty cool folks, and you're probably one of them. 



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