Hyperemesis gravidarum: definition, symptoms, my experience


Hyper… what? Hyperemesis gravidarum, a disease we haven’t heard a lot about. Maybe because it affects very few pregnant women, only between 0.5 and 2%. You may have heard about Kate Middleton who was suffering from it. And even during her 3 pregnancies. Me too, I have lived this experience. I only talk about it now because there is a lot of general information but very little experience, shared by other women. It is really hard to understand and imagine what it is if you haven’t experienced the same thing. And then we tend to think: « it’s just nausea, it only lasts 2 or 3 months, it can’t be that bad. » Sure, it’s not that bad, but it’s very difficult to deal with when we have to keep working because we’re not a princess :). In the next lines, you will find my experience with hyperemesis gravidarum. The goal is not to scare you, but to prepare you to live better your pregnancy if you are suffering from it.

What are the symptoms?

According to the definition, you suffer from this very very unpleasant disease if you have nausée AND if you vomit more than 3 times a day. This can provoke other complications, such as weight loss, dehydration, high blood pressure. To be honest, I already drink a lot of water every day, so I haven’t had any problems with dehydration or weight loss. The midwife who was taking care of me hadn’t noticed anything to worry about but still … everyday life was not easy to organize because of the hyperemesis gravidarum. I think it is the reason why I didn’t gain a lot of weight, barely 10 kilos. And 3 days after giving birth, while we were still in the hospital, I no longer had my pregnancy belly. I think that was the only good thing about having lived those 7 or 8 months with hyperemesis gravidarum. I think I understand now why every time Kate was leaving the maternity, she had this fine figure J. I will tell you later in this article how I experienced it and how I organized myself to get through this period. So I lived hyperemesis gravidarum with nausea during the whole day, from early morning until going to bed, followed by vomiting.

How did it appear? How long did this last?

I will never forget that Friday night, at the end of January, when I ate an Indian dish, chicken curry. My story started at around 11 p.m. One round in the toilets, second round and a third one :). The weekend was difficult, vomiting up to 6-8 times a day. 2 days before, I had started taking folic acid, prescribed by my midwife. So, I thought that this was the cause of my nausea. I didn’t know anything about the life of pregnant women. I was just looking for an explanation of this situation. At the same time, I thought it was going to end. I was waiting and waiting but it didn’t end. The new week has started and I got back to work. It was the beginning of my pregnancy. I was only 6 or 7 weeks pregnant and I hadn’t told my managers yet. So I let you imagine my state of constant nausea at work. I had to stop working 2 or 3 times because it was just not possible to work while suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum. Since then, I spent the rest of my pregnancy with small plastic bags in my pocket. The summer was easier to live, just with a few accidents. To be honest, I even vomited the day I gave birth. So for me, this situation lasted for around 8 months. The first 5 months of pregnancy were very intense.

My experience with hyperemesis gravidarum?

How I live dit at work, at home, when traveling ?

Vomiting 13 times a day is not easy. I think it was my record. Whether you are working or not, this situation is not easy to manage. Especially since it is often along with exhaustion. You will find below the different situations I had to manage this disease and to live with.

In the car

Car journeys have become difficult. In the beginning, everything is fine. All of a sudden, I underline the fact that whether you have eaten or not, you are nauseous, and start vomiting. If you have not eaten, then you will not have anything in your stomach, you will vomit a light yellow liquid. Apart from the plastic bags I had in my pockets, I also left a few bags in our car. I remember I was 8 or 9 weeks pregnant and we were about to go to my sister-in-law. We haven’t announced the news yet. And I started vomiting in the car. We were a little bit concerned because we were thinking that if I vomit in her house, they will understand immediately the reason why.

In public transport

This was the most difficult situation to manage. As a pregnant woman, you can arrange your working hours. However, you know how public transport is in Paris. There are always people in the metro. I remember the time I vomited in the metro. Well, it was when I already was out of the metro but this cost me a lot of effort. I was 3 or 4 stations from home. My nausea was caused by the dirty shoes of one of the passengers. I don’t know how my eyes felt on it, but it made me nauseous and it was hard to hold it back. I was making a huge effort not to vomit in the metro, even though I had my plastic bag in my pocket. I was waiting for my station with my eyes closed. I didn’t want to see other images that might make me sick. Once arrived at the station, I remember that I pushed people around saying “excuse me, excuse me”. I ran out to the bench and took out my plastic bag. I won’t give you more details. Fortunately (or unfortunately) in big cities, people often don’t pay attention to situations like this.

At work

Suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum is a very complex situation when you have to handle it at work. Now we have several days to work from home, but several years ago, we were still at the office. I can’t even imagine if you are working in an open space. I was lucky to be alone in my office and go to the bathroom when needed. There are situations I will never forget. The first one was right after lunch. I had a carrots salad as a starter. The dish, I don’t remember, but an hour later, my stomach was empty …. everything I had eaten at noon ended up in the toilet. And my throat was so sore afterward. I think because of that and even until now, I am not able to eat carrots.

The second situation was when we were in a meeting. There were 3 of us in the room and we had a zoom meeting with one of our partners. There was a moment I got angry with them, and I started to feel nausea. I was shivering like I had a 40 °C fever. It was hard to hide. I had to run to the bathroom, saying sorry to the people in the room.

On holidays

Despite all of that, we were able to have some holidays and spend a good time during the summer. We left for Sardinia when I was 7 months pregnant. The hyperemesis gravidarum had started to disappear until we had to have a break while we were driving across the island. Fortunately, I hadn’t eaten much in the morning…. I think this was the only time I vomit during our holidays. The rest of the time it was just nausea when we were at the hotel. Hopefully, we were able to enjoy the sea, the beaches, and the swimming pool. As I was pregnant, we spent most of the time in the pool. Nevertheless, we were able to discover some beaches and nice places. I remember that we chose the all-inclusive option so that we didn’t have to look for restaurants at the last moment.

At home

When I was pregnant, I always managed to get things done. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I had a few moments when I was exhausted. The only thing I did, was staying in bed. I haven’t had any strength to open a book. I felt so exhausted. I spent the time in bed, on the phone with family and friends. And again, even this was not easy. Strange but true. I was amazed by the exhaustion and my lack of strength. I still managed to cook, to work a little, to take care of the house, to prepare the few boxes for our new home.

I also experienced the heatwave. These few days (3 or 4 in total), when the temperature is going up to 40 °C. It becomes unbearable to stay in Paris. Dry air, hard to breathe, we sweat all the time. Fortunately, I am more or less used to high temperatures, but I imagine that is not the case for some women. So, going through the heatwave as a pregnant woman with hyperemesis gravidarum, becomes even more complicated. Drinking plenty of water is the rule of thumb. Lower the blinds and close the windows, so the hot air and the sun are not able to get in. During the night, don’t forget to open the windows and cool the house. And if during the day, if you have trouble staying at home, go to a shopping center (it is now impossible because of the covid) to take advantage of the air conditioning. It’s a good excuse to do some shopping and add some cute items to your baby’s wardrobe.


What to do if you are suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum?

Rest, rest and rest. I know this sounds difficult to imagine even more if you are a very active woman. However, you will understand it very well when you have no more strengths left and it becomes harder to get even a glass of water. I would say that it is like when you get flue, the level of exhaustion is more or less the same. Indeed, I know that we do not live in the same way the flu or pregnancy, which is why I imagine that it seems quite difficult to imagine the pain or the exhaustion.

Another piece of advice that doctors are giving is to eat ginger. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. In fact, at the beginning of the winter season, I drank a lot of homemade tea, with ginger, honey, and lemon. I think that was why ginger made me vomit during my prégnance. Your doctor can also give you some medicines (pills or suppositories). Unfortunately, this didm’t work for me.

Eat little but several times a day. Indeed, food is very important for the baby. It needs to feed and grow well before it comes into the world. Before my pregnancy, I never ate breakfast and even at the start of my pregnancy. I found that I had a lot of nausea in the morning. It was quite strange because I wasn’t hungry but I wanted to vomit. My midwife, therefore, advised me to eat even if I wasn’t hungry. Just a small toast. To be honest, it helped me a lot and reduced nausea. Unfortunately, the vomiting continued as strange as it may sounds.

Don’t hesitate to stay in bed. Even if you want to keep working, make sure you are taking a break for a few days. This will help you get a good rest and will prevent you from falling into total exhaustion. I had to stop working 2 or 3 times even if I never did that before. However, it allowed me to move slowly but surely in my work and our projects.

I think I covered all the points I wanted in this article. Again, there is no magic rule except having a rest. I know we all have different sensitivity to pain, to different situations. Some women have a lot of difficulties with hyperemesis gravidarum, until they are hospitalized. Others have the chance to continue their planswhile remaining vigilant anyway. This remains a very personal subject, but I decided to talk about it and share my experience, hoping that it can be useful for other women who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum.

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