Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)

Karin shares her story.

I am a multiple survivor of HG. You can read my story about my own experiences of being pregnant and suffering from HG which was published by leading online parenting magazine MyBaba.

For anyone who is suffering from or who has suffered from HG, please remember this: you are not alone! HG is particularly challenging as while mostly we recover physically as soon as our babies are born, the mental scars and trauma can be long-lasting. Many women suffer from pregnancy depression and also postnatal depression. Sadly, PTSD is also common for women to experience as a result of HG. I definitely belong to the group who suffered from all those conditions. I still struggle with after-effects even though my children were born in 2009 and 2014.

If you are suffering and would like support, please feel free to email me on NW8mums@gmail.com. I run an HG support WhatsApp group. I would be very happy to listen, to help you in any way I can including sharing my own tips and provide information about medical and mental health support.’

General Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) Information

HG became a bit more known to the general public with the Duchess of Cambridge suffering from HG during her pregnancies.

While I am very sad that the Duchess of Cambridge also went through HG, in some ways I am grateful as it has brought a bit more attention to HG. When I was pregnant with my son in 2013/14, I found people slightly less dismissive of me and less of ‘it’s all in your head’ compared to when I was pregnant with my daughter during 2008/09. Instead, I heard many comments related to the Duchess of Cambridge and I think to some people, the fact that she had it, helped validate HG to some degree.

For the majority of women, pregnancy is normal. You may suffer from some morning sickness, back pain and other pregnancy symptoms. For many women pregnancy is even a joy. However, some women experience a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).  In extremely simple terms, HG is excessive nausea and vomiting in pregnancy; think of it as a combination of 24/7 food poisoning, vertigo and sea sickness which goes on for months (sometimes the whole pregnancy).

Unfortunately, there is no cure for HG and up until recently there was very limited knowledge as to why some women suffer from it. New evidence conducted by various researchers including Dr Marlena Fejzo from the HER Foundation was published in December 2023 and points to a genetic link and you can read about it by clicking HERE. More research is needed, but at least that is a significant step closer to understanding why some women get HG.

Karin took part in HG research here in the U.K. during spring 2023 conducted by a team at St Guy’s & St Thomas’s Hospital here in London. Karin: ‘It was extremely emotional for me to qualify to take part.’

HG, even if on the milder end of the spectrum, is usually a debilitating and isolating illness, and even more so at a time when you ‘should’ be happy and glowing. Many women can’t go about their daily lives. I couldn’t even open my eyes without vomiting; the actual movement of my eyes made me vomit. I was barely 7 stone/ca 44 kilos at 10 weeks pregnant with my daughter when I collapsed and had to be admitted to hospital the first time.

What makes HG even more complicated is that for women who are pregnant for the first time it is very hard to know what is normal, and when is it not normal anymore as you don’t really have anything to compare it with.

A HG sufferer may well end up in hospital on an IV-drip, and often have to go on medication or even a cocktail of several drugs during part of or during the whole pregnancy. 

The important thing to remember is that HG is NOT normal morning sickness and for many women nothing works other than medication. Some have been helped by acupuncture, some feel a bit of relief with motion sickness pressure point wrist bands, but many women are simply too ill to be able to even leave the house (I was one of those women). HG often runs in families (but sometimes it skips a generation as in my case).

Below are some links relating to HG that I found very helpful.

The HER Foundation based in the U.S. were amazing to me during another pregnancy, and incredibly supportive.

Pregnancy Sickness Support is a U.K. based group that offers lots of information and support.

A book Karin found extremely helpful after she had had my first baby (Karin had no idea she would suffer from HG when she got pregnant with her daughter and she was also too ill to be able to read) Beyond Morning Sickness; ‘mostly to know I wasn’t alone in suffering and that the feelings I experienced were normal for someone suffering from HG‘. That book also helped Karin a lot in preparation for starting to think about the possibility of trying for a second child.

The book Mama Has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (but Only for a While) can be useful for parents helping children deal with their mummy being ill. Karin found this book very helpful and her husband read it to their daughter when she was pregnant again. Karin’s daughter even brought it to school when her mummy was hospitalised when pregnant again. They read it and talked about it in school.

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