©ISTOCKPHOTO.COM / PEOPLEIMAGES
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a pregnancy condition that’s come to light in recent years, mostly because of its most famous sufferer, Duchess Kate Middleton. While it may sound like a Harry Potter spell, I’m here to tell you there’s nothing magical about this brutal condition. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor ASAP.
My HG story began less than a week after I found out I was pregnant. I hadn’t even been to the doctor yet. We’d been trying for several months, but only my husband and I knew I was a couple weeks along. We were having dinner at a local diner when I suddenly lost my appetite. I began experiencing nausea, but chalked it up to regular old morning sickness and trucked along.
A few days later, I had my first ultrasound, then promptly went home and vomited for the first time during my pregnancy. Almost immediately, I found the nausea lasted all day, every day; the vomiting was frequent and severe. I was barely urinating because nothing was being digested. I was showing symptoms of dehydration and often felt faint. The only relief came while I was sleeping.
Everything made me nauseous: my commute on the NYC subway (to be fair, this was also true in my non-pregnant state), watching people eat, even the thought of water. And it was never-ending. I forced myself to consume a daily meal substitute drink, hoping that at least some of the protein and vitamins would stick with me and my growing baby before I vomited again. I’m making pregnancy sound super glamorous and desirable, I know.
Because most people have never heard of HG, I got all sorts of unsolicited advice about dealing with my morning sickness. Keep crackers by your bed! Put ginger root in your tea! Make sure you take a walk in the fresh air every day! You name it, I tried it. Unsurprisingly, nothing worked. I had more than your garden-variety morning sickness.
Within four weeks after that first ultrasound, I’d lost 8 percent of my pre-pregnancy body weight (one big symptom of HG is losing 5 percent or more). When it was time for my next check-in with my OB/GYN, I listed my symptoms. Hearing about my nonstop nausea combined with rapid and significant weight loss gave him all the information he needed to diagnose me with HG.
He explained that what I had was severe, and prescribed meds to help ease my symptoms. We’d monitor my progress, understanding that hospitalization with IV fluids would be the next step if this course of action didn’t help. In my case, I was lucky the meds allowed me long breaks from nausea and vomiting. I was finally able to eat small meals and keep them down. By the time I reached my last trimester of pregnancy, I even found myself experiencing food cravings (sautéed escarole and Sicilian pizza!)
Looking back, I still remember with clarity the first 22 weeks of my pregnancy and how I couldn’t enjoy what should’ve been a happy time. Not only did I constantly feel physically sick, I was also losing sleep over how my condition was impacting my baby and her nutritional needs.
I was one of the lucky sufferers whose doctor took my symptoms seriously, and his early intervention allowed me to manage my symptoms without hospitalization.
Although the medication helped slow my weight loss, having HG caused me to lose about 30 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight by the time I delivered. Now, it helps that I can have a sense of humor about it. It also helps that the growing baby who caused my hormones to go haywire is now a funny and sweet kindergartner.
Now I can laugh as I remember that fateful day when I got off the subway and immediately vomited in a station garbage can. I wasn’t showing yet, and was desperate to yell to passersby, “I promise I’m not hungover, just suffering from a pregnancy condition you’ve probably never heard of!” I still see that garbage can every day on my commute, but now I can look at it with a “remember when” sort of wistfulness.
Kristy Materasso is a mom from New Jersey, and works as an undergraduate admissions counselor.