Most women experience some form of pregnancy sickness. But for some, severe pregnancy sickness, otherwise known as hyperemesis gravidarum, may be the most challenging thing they ever go through in their lives. I’m currently experiencing my second pregnancy with HG and I’m here to tell you, it’s no picnic.
HG is a debilitating form of unrelenting nausea and vomiting that sends about 50,000 women a year in the U.S. to the hospital and restricts others to their beds for the most incapacitating parts of the sickness. It can last anywhere from the first trimester all the way through until delivery and serious complications can arise. Severity varies from woman to woman but ladies who are struck with the illness are commonly so sick they become unable to work or in many cases even care for themselves. The nausea is powerful and persistent that women with the condition have immense difficulty eating or drinking anything without vomiting and usually lose more than 10% of their pre-pregnancy body weight.
For some women, medication can help, but it is not always a cure. For many, Zofran, a powerful anti-nausea medication commonly used to treat chemotherapy patients, does little or nothing to stop their vomiting. Miscarriage is not uncommon in such cases and sometimes suffering women with wanted babies even chose to terminate the pregnancy because they have become so ill. Aside from the persistent nausea and vomiting, HG can be coupled with constant migraines; sensitivity to light and extreme fatigue, making pregnancy truly feel like hell on earth. (From weeks six-fifteen, I kept all the blinds drawn in our home and was unable to even look at my cell phone without getting sick).
Given that this illness is so poorly understood, even by the medical community, the emotional hurdle that comes with it can be an even bigger obstacle than the physical one. A woman battling HG feels like she is in the fight of her life and in some cases, she is. But since many mistake her illness as nothing more than morning sickness, she is often made to feel that she is weak or exaggerating her illness, even by her own doctor.
Here are the worst things to say to a woman suffering from HG (and believe me, we’ve heard ‘em all).