Warning: this post deals with themes related to mental health and suicide and may be triggering for some readers. Please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 if you’re struggling with symptoms of mental illness.
As told to Nama Winston by Woollongong mum, Camilla.
I want to share my story of having hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) – severe vomiting and nausea – with all three of my pregnancies, to support anyone who is suffering with it, or has had it and wasn’t taken seriously.
I was so unwell with my second pregnancy that I developed perinatal depression and, in my darkest hours, even considered suicide and an abortion… anything to make it stop.
So I know that HG and its symptoms are very real. But it’s not a well-understood or accepted condition, and HG sufferers have to put up with well-meaning but useless advice like ‘eat a cracker’ or ‘drink some ginger beer’.
Questions about childbirth answered by mums and non-mums:
I am now a mum to three beautiful daughters; Ella, three, Evie, five, and Chloe, seven. I’m married to Nick, a coal mine deputy, who worked Monday to Friday, midday until 1am, during my pregnancies. He now works weekends.
My first pregnancy
I was 27 years old when we first fell pregnant with Chloe. By seven weeks I was a mess, and had lost eight kilos.
My doctor immediately diagnosed me with HG, which was awesome (so many women aren’t quickly diagnosed). But there still wasn’t a great deal of treatment options widely available at that time.
I was prescribed Zofran (an anti-emetic), and was told to eat whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it. This advice is always the first thing I tell other newly pregnant women; we are so smothered in the concepts of ‘eating well for baby’ that sometimes we forget that any eating is better than none.
I lived off schnitzel sandwiches at work, and I ate handfuls of Zofran like smarties.
I think I spent about $15,000 on medications that pregnancy because Zofran wasn’t covered for HG at that stage.
The idea that kept me going through this first pregnancy was ‘it will get better at 12 weeks’. Then 12 weeks came and went, and I just kept on hoping that tomorrow would be better. Somewhere closer to 30 weeks, I realised I was starting to come alive again.