Vicky, 38, from Birmingham, had been pregnant three times and suffered from hyperemesis, or extreme morning sickness, each time.
Here she tells what is like to suffer from hyperemesis – excessive vomiting and nausea – during pregnancy.
‘I hadn’t planned to have more children after Matt because my previous experience of hyperemesis put me off, so when I recognised that oh so familiar feeling of sickness – this time even before my pregnancy was confirmed – alarm bells were ringing.
For a fit and healthy woman, morning sickness was the most debilitating condition I’d ever experienced: worse than any flu or cold I’d ever had.
The term ‘morning sickness’ didn’t seem to truly fit the condition, as I was suffering from ‘all day and all night sickness’ and it was starting to control my life.
I was left feeling like the life had been zapped out of me. I was miserable at a time that should have been happy. I couldn’t face eating or drinking and even when I made the effort, I threw up anyway.
By the time I was 12wks, I’d lost 2 and a half stone in weight, so my GP referred me to hospital. A urine test discovered the presence of ketones, and after ruling out diabetes, concluded I was dehydrated. I had to go on a saline/glucose drip on 2 separate occasions and was given anti-emetic suppositories to use.
By this time my nerves were on edge. My partner and family members were doing the everyday chores and looking after Mattie. Physically and emotionally, I was drained. I became paranoid that people were talking about me. I even started to feel like a fraud – there were people out there with real illnesses like cancer and I was pregnant, not ill.
But desparately ill is how I really felt. I had heard that some women terminated their pregnancies due to hyperemesis, and could fully empathise with them. I felt my relationships suffering and my sex life was non-existent. I couldn’t bear to have my partner touch me. I wanted to be left alone. He was very good about it.
The most heartbreaking thing was that I couldn’t take an interest in the things my son liked as I just didn’t feel strong enough. I felt I was neglecting him and letting him down. I knew he needed me. I’d lost my dad to pneumonia before I got pregnant with Lilah, and Matt was close to his grandad. ‘I understand mum,’ he’d say to me. I was grateful and proud to have such a sensitive lad.
I returned to work for a short while after 15 wks of absence, feeling nervous. My colleagues and HR manager were a great support. Knowing how paranoid I’d been, a male colleague had researched hyperemesis and left copies of an article he’d found on the internet in the staff canteen to educate people on what was wrong with me, so I wouldn’t be subjected to hurtful comments about being lazy. It was tough going to work on public transport and some days I couldn’t manage it. Work were very sympathetic. With all the support I was getting, I still thought people were avoiding me; I just wasn’t good company these days.
As my pregnancy progressed, I was able to stomach some bland foods but only drank milk. I was still sick a lot but at least I managed to keep a bit down.
It was a relief when Lilah was born. She was perfect but small, weighing 5lb 13oz.
The first thing I had to eat after she was born was toast and it was the best I’d ever tasted. I was starving. I’ve since put on all the weight I lost plus a bit extra.
The hyperemesis seems a distant memory when I recall the moment I cuddled my baby daughter for the first time. When I look at my beautiful children, I realise that nine months of suffering in my life compared to a lifetime of not having them in mine was definitely worth it!’
Vicky’s tips for hyperemesis sufferers
- Try wearing sea bands. Most chemists stock them.
- Eat small bland meals. I had dry toast and lentil soup.
- Always try to eat something. I felt worse if my stomach was empty.
- If you can’t stomach drinks, then suck small pieces of ice.
- Avoid anything with strong odours.
- Most importantly, try to get some rest.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help: you are not on your own. Hyperemesis is a medical condition that can sometimes require a referral to hospital. It’s more common than you think. Dont let people make you feel bad about it.