The hell of HG

DONNELLE BELANGER-TAYLOR
Last updated 10:54 05/12/2012

I'm indifferent to the royal family, besides the fact that Prince Harry looks like my little brother.

I don't care about romantic royal weddings, or "second-in-line to the throne", or sisters with spectacular bottoms. It just doesn't register on my radar.

But the news that there is a royal heir on the way caught my attention for one reason. Poor Kate has been admitted to hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).

As an HG sufferer myself, I knew what I would find in the comments. Yep, "thoughts" along the lines of "silly woman, you don't go to hospital for morning sickness".

Hyperemesis gravidarum is not "bad morning sickness". Only somebody who hasn't seen someone they love suffer through it would make the comparison. It is debilitating, and sometimes deadly, even today.

I was afflicted by HG in both of my pregnancies. At times I vomited blood, from vessels in my oesophagus that had burst from the strain. I was admitted to hospital multiple times, with severe dehydration, and in a state of ketosis (which can lead to kidney failure).  

With the twins, I lost more than 14kg and it took until 36 weeks to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. The only thing I kept down until 20 weeks - with medication - was frozen Coke. It only improved when I was given the anti-nausea meds used for chemotherapy patients. In my run-down state, H1N1 flu leapt upon me with gusto. 

HG has had long-term effects on my health. It has damaged my teeth, ruined my metabolism, and was a significant factor in my post-natal depression. Even now, I still suffer flashbacks, and even thinking the word "pregnant" makes me feel nauseated. Yes, really.

Am I exaggerating? 

Imagine how you feel when you have a tummy bug: the endless nausea and vomiting, the fatigue, the shakiness, the foggy mind. Now imagine that for nine months, unable to eat, while a foetus drains your nutrients away.

Imagine being dry, utterly thirsty and craving liquid, but knowing that even a single sip of fluid will make you sick. Mentally comparing the contents of your bucket to the amount you've managed to swallow since the last time you vomited, hoping that this time you're on the positive side of the equation.

Add depression, triggered by dehydration and the misery that is your life. Add worry that you must have done something wrong to cause this.  Add fear that your body is a failure and is going to hurt your baby. Do your best to remain calm about the increased risk of second-trimester loss, low birth weight, pre-eclampsia and premature birth. 

Have a dollop of guilt for every suppressed wish that something would happen to your baby, just so you could have an end to the vomiting.

Don't forget the guilt about how important a healthy diet is for your baby. It's hard to maintain a balanced diet when you have to categorise your food by how unpleasant it will be to vomit up later.  

Oh, have some more guilt, for hating what is supposed to be the happiest time in your life. 

And now imagine how you feel when someone says "Have you tried eating crackers before you get out of bed?"

So Kate has my utter, utter sympathy. Not just for suffering a terrifying illness, but for effectively having the entire world ready to cracker her.

Have you experienced hyperemesis gravidarum? 

If you would like to learn more about HG, HelpHER.org is an excellent resource, and includes very supportive forums.

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