Hyperemesis Gravidarum or HG
I promised myself after the birth of my last child in July 2007, that I would write about this problem and do my part to make others aware. HG is a pregnancy disease marked by rapid weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration due to unrelenting nausea and/or vomiting. It can have adverse consequences for newborns.It was only by the grace of God that I survived HG or that I was able to continue working fulltime through all three of my pregnancies.
My pregnancy with my first daughter, Juliette, was difficult. I had severe nausea for five months, but it was only a hint of the difficulties I would endure in my pregnancies with Sullivan and Bridgette.
Before I go any further, I want to note that there is a foundation, the HER Foundation, which is dedicated to the education and research of mothers who suffer from HG and those who care for them. You can find out more at http://www.hyperemesis.org. I give to this organization, because I hope one day they will find a cure. I hope my daughters or future daughter-in-law will never have to go through what I went through.
Regarding my experience, many people were unsympathetic. The temptation for friends and even some family members was to dismiss my symptoms and misery and explain it away as my own weakness or inability to tolerate the discomforts of pregnancy. I only wish this were true.
“I can’t go through this again,” I told him. “I can’t keep my job and take care of my other children and all my other responsibilities if I am going to be sick like this. There has got to be something, somebody can do for me!”I had tried everything imaginable. One prescription, which I can’t recall the name of now, worked to some degree. The sea bands seemed to help a little. Resting helped a lot, but it was not really an option for me. CRACKERS DID NOT HELP and every time someone suggested I use them as a remedy, I wanted to poke their eyes out. Dr. Dosser took me very seriously. He did not dismiss my complaints like at least one other obstetricians had. He didn’t relegate me to “Big Baby” status. In fact, he took me very seriously and he treated me for HG.
He started by prescribing me an anti-nausea drug, Zofran, they often give chemotherapy patients. It cost me $85, but the cost to my insurance was over $700. I was convinced this magic pill was going to be the answer to all my problems. I was so excited to try it and believed it would work and deliver me from a problem that was completely debilitating me.
Thus, imagine my complete spiral downward when it was a colossal failure. It did nothing to stop my nausea. The pharmacist at Walgreen’s is still mopping up puddles of my tears that I cried over the phone when I called and told her it wasn’t working. “I’ve never heard of it not working in pregnant patients,” she said. I was so incredibly disappointed.
I went back to Dr. Dosser and told him the drug didn’t work. He was very understanding, and not entirely surprised. Thus, began a new approach to treatment. Every few days – I think I was allowed to go twice a week – I went to the Emergency Room to receive fluids. The routine became very familiar to me and I became familiar to the ER nurses and doctors. I’d show up after finishing a day of work and promptly pee in a cup. (Sometimes, I’d actually call and ask them if it was a good time to come to the ER.) They’d run a urinalysis and subsequently determine I was dehydrated (no matter how much water I drank, I was dehydrated). At that point, they started an IV and gave me fluids – two or three bags each time as best I can recall. The bags had some medicine in it, but I can’t remember now what it was. (Nothing too fancy.) I can’t fully describe the relief getting fluid intravenously provided. I immediately improved each time, but within a day or so, the improvement waned as I became dehydrated again and again.
Here’s me six months pregnant.
Thus, another treatment was begun. Dr. Lipe, an ER Physician at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City – another doctor who was completely devoted to treating me for HG – started me on what he called a “new cocktail” that had helped some women suffering from HG. This cocktail was Pepcid AC, Reglan and Vitamin B-6. Reglan, which is commonly used to treat heartburn from gastric reflux, helped push food through my digestive system. This pretty cheap prescription helped me so much.
Nothing completely delivered me from the pain and discomfort caused by HG. Fortunately, between months five and six, the nausea ceased, but for some pregnant women, HG lasts the entire pregnancy. For anyone out suffering from severe nausea accompanied by weight loss, you are NOT alone and you are NOT a weenie. Anyone who makes you feel that way needs to go to the HER Web site and read up on this disease. (I lost 20 pounds during the first two trimesters of my last two pregnancies, followed, of course, by enormous weight gain in the last trimesters.)
During the difficult days of my last two pregnancies, I sang myself to sleep every night with hymns I remembered from my childhood. It was a deeply spiritual time for me. I reached out to the Hand of God every night in bed, and prayed for His mercy. So many nights, I rested in Him. It is the only way I was able to get up and go to work every day for nine long months – three different times.
Pregnant women are incredibly vulnerable creatures. If you know one, whether or not she is suffering from HG, remember to pray for her. Some women breeze through pregnancy. My friend Amy said to me once, “I loved being pregnant. I never felt better.” How absolutely wonderful for her! I loved hearing that and knowing not all pregnancies are as terrible or burdensome as mine were.
FINAL NOTE ABOUT FMLA
Another thing I want to mention is about FMLA – the Family Medical Leave Act. I was so concerned about using up all my FMLA with my own sickness, too many days I went to work when I could have benefitted from rest. I wanted to “save” as much of my FMLA (12 weeks by law) for the “qualifying event” as possible. What I did not know was that my at-risk and very-difficult pregnancy was one qualifying event, making the birth of my daughter another. Thus, I could have qualified for 12 weeks of FMLA for my pregnancy and another 12 weeks for the birth/caring for my newborn. I so desperately needed those 12 weeks to take care of myself. I put my pregnancy at higher risk than I had to – pushing to go to work every day and keep up all appearances. I smiled 10,000 smiles I didn’t want to smile because I didn’t want anyone to think I couldn’t do my job. Certainly, more needs to be done to support pregnant women in the workplace.]
ONE MORE THING: The above picture of Juliette and me was the first day I had felt OK in over 16 weeks. My nausea was clearly subsiding, and we took J. to the park to fly a kite. I was six months pregnant in this photo, but I had lost so much weight, you couldn’t even tell.