Along with many other women, I dreamt of starting a family one day and experiencing the joys of pregnancy. In the spring of 1998, I became pregnant with my first child. What should have been a happy experience turned into a nightmare. I experienced what I believed was morning sickness; however, I seemed to be sick all day and night with unrelenting nausea and vomiting. I was miserable and it continued beyond the first trimester. My OB was kind enough to give me Zofran which alleviated my symptoms enough for me to eat and drink. Although I still had bouts of vomiting from time to time throughout the pregnancy. But in my 8th month, I had a really rough two days and ended up going to the ER for fluids. After two hours, the nurse woke me up to tell me I was being discharged. I was vomiting into a bucket as she helped me out of bed but continued to discharge me. By the end of the pregnancy, I lost a total of 13 pounds.
In 2002, I became pregnant with my second child thinking my second pregnancy would be different. The horrific nausea and vomiting started all over again. This time it was worse. I went through a number of OBs trying to find the right one. The first OB I found wasn’t very friendly. Even though I informed her I experienced horrible nausea and vomiting with my first pregnancy and Zofran alleviated symptoms, she refused to give me medication. She thought it was all in my head, and I was exaggerating even though she could clearly see from my vitals I was losing weight. She recommended eating small meals throughout the day, taking sips of water, eating ginger, and wearing sea bands. The typical prescription for morning sickness.
I was depressed and felt like I was going to die. No one understood what I was going through. My esophagus began to erode from all of the vomiting and my teeth were in horrible shape. I was dehydrated, frail, stressed, and lifeless. Every smell made me sick, and I couldn’t sip water without being ill. I spent my days and nights vomiting with multiple trips to the ER for IV fluids. No one in the medical profession believed my symptoms were due to my pregnancy. On one particular ER trip, the ER doctor took an interest in my case after reading my chart and noticing I had been to the ER a number of times for fluids. He ran a battery of tests trying to determine why my organs were shutting down and my EKG was abnormal. The tests were all inconclusive. By my 7th month, I finally found an OB who understood my plight and prescribed Zofran. However, it was too late. I was too far into my illness for it to have any effect. I continued to suffer until delivery. By the time my daughter was born, I lost a total of 25 pounds.
I began researching my symptoms after the birth of my daughter and found the Hyperemesis Education and Research (HER) Foundation. Finally, I had a name for my condition…Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)! I joined HER’s discussion forums and found other women experiencing everything I experienced. I decided to have a third child, knowing the care I needed and having support from my new forum. The OB who delivered my daughter retired leaving me to search for a new OB again. I finally found a winner. My new OB’s wife experienced HG with her two pregnancies. Therefore, he was well aware of Hyperemesis. Once I became pregnant, he monitored my symptoms closely. As soon as I started going down the dark path of HG, he put me on home care until the vomiting was under control. He also put me on a medicine pump for the remainder of my pregnancy. I knew exactly when it was time to refill the pump every time the nausea returned. I literally had to stay medicated 24 hours a day to feel normal. I gained 18 pounds with my third and final pregnancy.
I’m so grateful to Kimber MacGibbon, Ann Marie King, and Jeremy King for starting the HER Foundation. The Foundation’s forums were my saving grace during my third pregnancy. I was able to go through the journey with other pregnant HG women supporting each other along the way. I signed up to be a support volunteer for other women in the same situation after the birth of my third child. I love helping other women through their journey by sharing my experience and what worked for me in surviving the condition. Hopefully, we will find a cure for HG one day, allowing future pregnant women to experience the joy of pregnancy instead of the dread.
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.