The day that I found out that I was expecting was one of the happiest days of my life. However, during my 5th week of pregnancy, that excitement turned into anxiety. That’s when my body began rejecting all food and water. The first time I became sick, I spit up all over my clothes and car seats after a massage. From there, I struggled to keep anything down and lost 8 pounds in one week. My husband and I soon realized that this was more than morning sickness. And we were right – it was hyperemesis gravidarum.
The American Pregnancy Association defines hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) as “a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance.” It effects between 0.5-2% of pregnant women, and around 60,000 women are hospitalized for it each year.
I had never heard of hyperemesis gravidarum until I received a diagnosis of it myself. After some research, I learned that many women suffer physical and mental turmoil from this condition without support because it’s rarely discussed. I want to change that by bringing more awareness to this condition. I also want to share practical tips that helped me survive.
Crackers and Ginger Chews Aren’t Enough
When a pregnant woman shares that she is nauseous or vomiting often, some will suggest crackers, ginger ale, ginger chews and more. From my experience, this isn’t enough for a woman suffering from HG. No one knows for sure exactly what causes it, but most doctors believe it is triggered by hormonal changes. Either way, it’s not a regular nausea. So if someone suggests these, just know that they don’t mean any harm. They are simply uninformed.
Include Protein in Every Meal
Renee the Midwife from the Chatting with the Midwife podcast saves lives. I came across her episode about HG vs morning sickness right after my 7th week of pregnancy. In it, she shares that protein is more effective than carbohydrates at keeping both morning sickness and HG at bay. This is because protein keeps you full longer than carbs do. Give it a try and see if you notice any difference in how you feel.
Lean Into Your Support System
Growing a human is difficult. If we add in the complication of HG that may require hospitalizations or even home health care, we can easily see that support is needed.
Hyperemesis gravidarum changed the level of independence that I could possess. Before getting pregnant, I never needed my husband’s help for everyday tasks. But once I became sick, I needed him for everything including trips to and from work, picking up food and cleaning. He became my caretaker.
Many women have a Superwoman complex. We think that we should be able to do and handle it all. But HG requires us to think and act differently. It forces us to accept help.
So lean into your support system. Let them do what they can do, while you do what you only can do. Your focus has to be on survival.
All Water Isn’t Made Equal
I’ll cut to the chase here: drink alkaline water. It is more expensive, but it made me feel much better than water with lower alkalinity. I share my favorite brand of water and electrolyte tabs below.
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Medical Attention
I spent an entire week vomiting before my HG diagnosis. Only when I realized I wasn’t using the bathroom did I think to consult a nurse. She promptly sent me to the emergency room, where I received the fluids that I needed. If shudder to think about what could have happened had I not gone in when I did.
Pregnancy is not the time to push through, especially if you are a Black woman in the US. If you are suffering and nothing is helping, please seek medical attention and advocate for yourself. You will not regret doing what it takes to protect yourself and your baby.
If you know a mom that could benefit from reading this, please share it with her. I want moms who are suffering from HG to know that that they are not alone.
Have something to share? Please leave it in the Comments below.