When I first became pregnant, I was living in New Hampshire and my then-husband, Clay, was a law student and in the US Marine Corps. I had no idea what was about to happen. My mother, nor anyone I know of in my family, had experienced an HG pregnancy. I had absolutely the worst 9 months of my life.
My mother, who lives in Las Vegas, did not offer any sympathy or support, at least that I can remember. Fortunately, I did have some friends and co-workers who helped me while Clay was deployed, but I was really suffering alone.
Most of it is a blur, but I remember getting IV fluids and sent home with phenergan suppositories, which were terrifying to me. The medicine made me sleep for hours, but at least I wasn’t nauseous and vomiting. It was a truly terrifying time because I needed to keep my job for my health insurance. I moved from a higher stress sales position to a lower stress administrative job. We didn’t have clients in the office, so I could throw up and then go back to work. I made it through and had a healthy baby girl. As soon as I delivered her, my body returned to normal. I still remember eating food after she was born and enjoying every moment of each bite!
We waited 2.5 yrs to get pregnant again and went in with the mindset that “each pregnancy is different so it might not happen again.” We were stationed at a US Marine Corps base in Okinawa, Japan. I had what I thought was great medical care because it did not cost us any out-of-pocket expenses and was convenient, but I was only given IV fluids then sent home with phenergan suppositories. In hindsight, I should’ve had nutrition, other medication options, and support.
We waited an additional four years before I became pregnant again. I would never have even tried, but Clay really wanted a son. At this time, we were stationed at the US Navy base on Rota, Spain, so I was lucky again to have free medical care. I thought I knew what I was in for, but it was still a horrific experience. The two things that helped was having Zofran and the HER Foundation website. I also had a nanny to help my then 4 and 6 year old daughters get to and from school.
At eight weeks, I went to the hospital to get an IV and this time was also given Reglan. The next thing I knew as having panic attacks. I do not have a history of being anxious. The effect lasted a day or so, but the feeling burned into me. I honestly didn’t know how I would make through this pregnancy. Even my friends there said comments like “it’s normal, we all (women/moms) experience this…” The lack of sympathy was devastating.
Years later, when I earned my PharmD, I learned that there are many options to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, ranging from OTC to Rx, topicals to sublinguals to suppositories to pumps. Even repleting vitamins can help tremendously. I also learned that there are options for nutrition and many routes to give the nutrition. In pharmacy school, we learn that each medicine is decided on a risk vs benefit ratio. I want to ensure women now suffering with HG know their options, know the risk vs benefits and know that they have to be their own advocate.
HG is hyperemesis gravidarum: a potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease that may cause malnutrition, dehydration, and debility due to severe nausea and vomiting, and may cause long-term health issues for mom and baby.