pregnancy

"I felt poisoned." Four women on the reality of having hyperemesis gravidarum.

Australian radio presenter Fifi Box has shared on Instagram that she is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) – a serious condition that can happen during pregnancy, which causes extreme nausea and vomiting.

Box, who announced her pregnancy through an anonymous sperm donor in February this year, posted a photo collage of her face to demonstrate how debilitating HG had been for her.

“I’ve had a lot of people curious about my pregnancy condition hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and wondering what exactly is wrong with me,” the 42-year-old explained.

“HG has made this much wanted and longed for pregnancy an incredibly tough journey.

“This is the reality of how I have looked every day for 9 months, debilitated by nausea, bedridden and at times hospitalised.”

 

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I’ve had a lot of people curious about my pregnancy condition hyperemsis gravidarum (HG) and wondering what exactly is wrong with me. HG has made this much wanted and longed for pregnancy an incredibly tough journey and I’ve been happy to hide away and keep it to myself but now that I can see the finish line in sight, I feel it might be of some benefit to other sufferers to discuss it so no one else feels alone. This is the reality of how I have looked every day for 9 months, debilitated by nausea, bedridden and at times hospitalised. The easiest way of describing HG is ‘severe morning sickness’. But as fellow sufferer @amyschumer said “comparing HG to morning sickness is like having an arrow through your skull and saying it’s like a minor headache”. It is a terribly isolating journey of chronic nausea with no relief. I have felt poisoned every second of this pregnancy, it’s like having gastro every minute, every hour of every day for nine months. It is possibly the greatest mental and physical challenge of my life. And the only way through it is my daughter’s smiling face every day, the support of incredible friends and family, and knowing that each day I’m getting closer to this much wanted, longed-for baby angel ???????? So for any other sufferers out there I hear you, I feel you and I know what you’re going through ????

A post shared by Fifi Box (@fifi_box) on

Fox added that she took exception to HG being explained as ‘severe morning sickness’.

“As fellow sufferer @amyschumer said ‘comparing HG to morning sickness is like having an arrow through your skull and saying it’s like a minor headache’,” she said.

“It is a terribly isolating journey of chronic nausea with no relief. I have felt poisoned every second of this pregnancy, it’s like having gastro every minute, every hour of every day for nine months.”

Describing HG as “possibly the greatest mental and physical challenge” of her life, Box, who is already mum to six-year-old Trixie (whom she shares with former partner Grant Kenny), credits her daughter with making HG easier.

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“The only way through it is my daughter’s smiling face every day, the support of incredible friends and family, and knowing that each day I’m getting closer to this much wanted, longed-for baby angel.”

Due to celebrities such as Amy Schumer, who, prior to having her son Gene in May, was hospitalised for HG in her second trimester, the condition has become more well-known.

Most prominently, the Duchess of Cambridge also had the condition when she was pregnant with her three children – George, Charlotte and Louis.

What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

Dr Andi Horvath explained that “obstetricians refer to the condition as hyperemesis gravidarum, but nobody is quite sure why it occurs. In fact, 85 per cent of pregnant women endure nausea and vomiting from around 9 to 14 weeks or even longer.

“In about 3 out of 200 pregnancies, the nausea and vomiting can be so severe it can lead to potential problems with nutrition, fluid loss, and electrolyte balance.”

The Australian Government health website, healthdirect, says symptoms of HG usually include prolonged and severe nausea and vomiting, which can result in serious issues such as dehydration, weight loss, and low blood pressure.

Severe cases which can’t be controlled by doctor-prescribed medication, approved dietary changes, and rest, may need hospital admission for treatment, which would include fluids through an intravenous drip.

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So what does it actually feel like to have HG?

Three women shared their experiences with HG with us.

Emily’s story.

“I’m currently 26 weeks pregnant. I was diagnosed with HG at 7 weeks, but had to stop by job as a nurse at 5 weeks as I was so unwell.

“When I first started to feel sick, I thought I had gastro. It was so sudden and severe I thought it had to be a virus.

“HG is not just vomiting 10 times a day; it’s the extreme nausea you feel the rest of the time. I think it feels a lot like motion sickness.

“But then you also feel starving, which is a very weird sensation to be so nauseous yet hungry.

“And the thirst… I can’t express how thirsty I was. Because I couldn’t keep fluids down (luckily I can now for the last month), I would literally dream of trickling water.

“With all the lack of fluid and food, my blood pressure would bottom out, so I am dizzy all the time.

Sack Dr Google and ask OB Joe: It’s OK if your first and second pregnancy symptoms don’t match. Post continues after video.

“My face is bright red because all the capillaries on my cheeks have burst. I was getting blood noses every few days from vomiting so hard.

“Going to hospital and getting fluids was the only relief I had. But even after four to five bags of fluid the vomiting would start again less then 24 hours later.

“Then there’s the mental side of things.

“Even writing this I’m brought to tears because for approximately 175 days in a row I have vomited, been trapped in my house because I can’t physically go anywhere except doctors’ appointments.

“I struggled with no feelings in any way to my baby because all I felt was such severe sickness. And then the fear that she wasn’t getting any nutrients and that I would miscarry again was so intense.

“It wasn’t really until my 20-week scan where I saw her moving that I started to feel something. Now I’m so totally in love with her.

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“I am now on HG nausea medication and feeling better. I can keep down toast in the morning.

“The lack of understanding makes it so much worse. People think ginger and crackers will help… ginger just won’t cut it.

“It’s a joke among people with HG to tell each other “I got gingered today”. That means someone has told you ginger will stop you vomiting. Even midwives and doctors say this to us. It’s just shocking.”

Pregnancy guru Rebecca Judd shares the honest piece of information she wishes she’d been told as a new mum. Post continues after audio.

Sara’s story.

“I made the mistake of pushing through what I thought was terrible morning sickness.

“I would wake up, vomit, and then know I had two to three hours when I would feel okay, before I had to come home and sleep.

“I can’t describe the exhaustion to you; it was worse than after I had the baby! I think it was a combination of not being able to keep anything down, and really low blood pressure.

“Finally, when I was 10 weeks, my mum sent me to her GP who believed me about how I couldn’t stomach anything. I was admitted to hospital immediately with severe dehydration.

“I felt so much better even after that first bag of fluid – I cried, because I was so relieved that we finally knew what was wrong.”

Anita’s story.

“I developed anxiety over the health of my baby after my HG diagnosis. It was a really horrible period in my life, even though the baby was fine, I was so sick – so of course, I would be worried.

“It ruined a period which should have been wonderful and exciting. But I think my fears were to be expected.

“My husband didn’t get it. He saw other pregnant woman who had recovered from morning sickness and thought I was being a bit weak. He never said that, but after months of being unwell, he thought I should have gotten over it.

“He thought that, even though he knew I was diagnosed with HG at 8 weeks.

“So, the HG really put a strain on our marriage and I feel so disappointed in that. But we are planning our second child, and he says he knows what to expect now.

“I’m glad about that, because this time if I’ve got HG again, with a toddler, I will really need his support.”

For more information on HG see the Australian government’s website for pregnancy.

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). Now a Mamamia Contributor and freelance writer, Nama uses her past experience as a lawyer to discuss everything from politics, to parenting. You can follow her on Instagram: @namawinston and Facebook: @NamaWinston.

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