No, Saltines Won’t Help: My Experience With Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Close up saline IV drip for patient in hospital.

Disclaimer: I am truly fortunate to be pregnant with my second baby. My heart goes out to all those wishing to be pregnant or to be parents. Please do not interpret this article as me complaining about being pregnant but as a way to educate and inform on the condition of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). 

I suffered debilitating nausea and vomiting for weeks during my second pregnancy.

It has taken me months to write this article as it was hard for me to look back at this season of life and I have the tendency to downplay my symptoms in order to not seem dramatic. It’s not like this is something I LIKE to talk about. 

I shied away from public life and didn’t even like discussing my condition because being flooded with people well-meaning comments of “Oh I was so sick when I was pregnant too! It made going to work so hard!”,  “Have you tried saltines and ginger ale?” “Make sure to keep crackers by your bedside” “Just tough it out, it will pass!” 

The fact is, the condition I had, Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is NOT just your typical morning sickness.  

Some facts for those that know nothing more than “that thing Kate Middleton had”:

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a rare condition, with fewer than 200,000 cases a per year. It is a severe type of nausea during pregnancy combined with endless vomiting, weight loss, and malnutrition. I was lucky that my symptoms dispersed around 17 weeks. Some women experience HG their entire pregnancies and some are admitted for long stays in the hospital until the birth of their child.

Distinguishing between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum:

Morning Sickness: Hyperemesis Gravidarum:
Nausea sometimes accompanied by vomiting Nausea accompanied by severe vomiting
Nausea that subsides at 12 weeks or soon after Nausea that does not subside
Vomiting that does not cause severe dehydration Vomiting that causes severe dehydration
Vomiting that allows you to keep some food down Vomiting that does not allow you to keep any food down

My Story:

I found out I was pregnant mid-January. It came as a little bit of a shock, we had just started trying for baby number two and were expecting another year or so long journey. But there were no denying those two pink lines on the pregnancy test I took on January 16. 

With my first pregnancy I started feeling nauseous around week 5, so I braced myself to feel sick around that same time with this pregnancy.  5 weeks came and went and I crossed my fingers that maybe this pregnancy was going to be different and I would be one of those lucky women that never get sick. 

Boy was I wrong!

On February 10, at seven weeks, the nausea struck! And then a week later the vomiting stuck. And then it struck, and struck, and struck. I could not stop vomiting.

I tried crackers and pretzels – they instantly came back up. I’d take a sip of water and vomit it up a few minutes later. Any thought of food would have me dry heaving.

I called my doctor and got a prescription for Dicligis – a safe medication that I took while pregnant with my first-born. It was all I needed to help relieve my nausea and vomiting that first go around. 

I stayed optimistic but the vomiting did not stop. 

I tried to brave it out for another day or two, but after two days of non stop vomiting my body and my soul were worn down. 

I was extremely weak and dizzy and could barely stand on my own. Taking care of my 18 month old was out of the question and I leaned heavily on family for support. Those two days felt like eternity. 

I finally called my doctor. I had held off because I know that vomiting is a part of pregnancy. I didn’t want them to talk to me condescendingly or think I was exaggerating and being a crazy hypochondriac. But as I explained my symptoms to the nurse she told me to get into the ER triage as soon as possible. 

I was admitted to the hospital for the day and got hooked up to IV fluids and Zofran. I started to regain some color and feel a little more human after 4 hours. I was given a prescription for Promethazine suppositories (fun!) as the Zofran can be linked to birth defects.  

I went home hopeful that I had found the solution and I could live with just being nauseous and vomiting once or twice a day. On the first night the suppositories caused incredibly painful cramping and abdominal pressure. I was up all night in pain and still vomiting. I continued with this for another day or two before calling my doctor back. 

She was not happy that I was still unable to keep any nutrients down and was sent back into the hospital for more fluids and rest. At this point I was 9 weeks pregnant and unable to do my work from home job. It was impossible to explain my symptoms to my male boss. 

I had already lost 8 pounds. I never thought I would look forward to going to the hospital, but those IV drips were the only thing that made me feel like I wasn’t going to die. This time I was sent home with a prescription to Zofran – the chance of birth defects were lesser than the side effects of me vomiting non stop. 

The Zofran pills were not as strong as a Zofran IV drip and I ended back up in the hospital the following week.

At this point I felt like a shell of my former self. I was in a deep depression from being so sick for so long and not being able to function normally. I couldn’t parent my son or be a wife or friend. I felt completely isolated from the outside world and helpless. The pregnancy became a problem rather than something to celebrate. 

This time, the doctors discussed getting a PICC line put in so that I could have a constant supply of medicine flowing into my system. Sadly, I was a little excited for this type of relief, however inconvenient it may be for the next few weeks. There was no telling when my Hyperemesis would ease up, and I would give anything to be able to read to my son again and function at half my capacity. 

I got lucky.

Within the next few days my vomiting slightly ceased and I did not have to get the PICC line inserted. The Zofran medication was finally enough to get me to stop vomiting everything I digested. I was still getting sick 3 – 4 times a day, but I was able to hold in water and some food.

Online support groups were everything to me during these long weeks. There is no more lonely feeling than being sick non stop and having no one understand. 

The most helpful was HER, Hyperemesis Education and Research: 

I FINALLY started to feel mostly all better by 18 weeks. That’s when I stopped vomiting all together. However the depression, anxiety, and overall fatigue on my body stuck around. In some ways I still feel like I’m recovering. This sickness was a deciding factor in quitting my job this past May so I could focus on my health and spend time with Wyatt. 

I lost a total of 11 pounds, a lot of confidence, and time. My depression was in full swing. I’m sure this is my last pregnancy because there is no way I’d voluntarily go through that sickness again. 

I stopped taking Zofran around 20 weeks and have had a normal and healthy pregnancy since! I’m very fortunate as some women suffer until they give birth. Fellow sufferers, the end will be in sight! 

I share this story not to complain but to raise awareness of Hyperemsis Gradiverdum. I want to educate that it is not JUST morning sickness and that you can find support and help. I would have been lost without the support of my family. I have no idea who I would have found to watch my son while I was sick all those weeks and will forever be grateful for their support and love. 

If you come across this article while googling HG symptoms as you are lying on the bathroom floor, please feel free to reach out to me! You are not alone. 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Nadine

    Oh my goodness, I had no idea you were going through this. It sounds awful!!!! I am glad that you are feeling better!

  • you poor thing. my mom had HG with both me and my brother, and i always tell her i’m shocked she had two more pregnancies after that…i am so happy that you have crossed over into a better place healthwise. thank you for sharing this.

    • Wow, that’s amazing that she braved two more pregnancies! Women are super heros! Thank you, very grateful that it did pass.