A pregnancy is supposed to be a wonderful time where couples get to create lists of baby names and decorate baby’s room with just the right shade of paint. However, for 60,000 women per year (in the U.S) the truth couldn’t be further. Sure the usual bouts of morning sickness come and go but for women living with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), pregnancy is nothing less than an absolute nightmare.
The majority of women will get some sort of morning sickness which symptoms most often include nausea and fatigue. Most times women are able to “deal” with it and are able to function at a somewhat normal level. Morning sickness usually subsides around the 14th week of pregnancy. Of course some women may never experience morning sickness and some may experience it for the duration of their pregnancy.
It is also believed that before the modern enhancement of the Intravenous Fluid (IV) line and “slow drip” method in the 1940’s, the mortality rate of pregnant women was due in most part to the dehydration effect of HG.
Related Read – Best Pregnancy Foods
“A woman suffering from HG will not be the same woman she was before her pregnancy”
What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)?
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a somewhat rare disease which affects only pregnant women. According to americanpregnancy.org, It is estimated that around 60,000 women suffer from this disease each year. The number is thought to be even higher being that many women are not diagnosed with HG. The cause is unknown but is believed to be linked to the hormonal change women experience during pregnancy. Sure hormones are responsible for the typical morning sickness as well, but some women are extremely sensitive to these changes and it can have a devastating effect.
According to a study published in the Oxford Journals, HG starts to show around the 4th week of gestation and usually subsides by the 20th week. However, approximately 10% of pregnant women will experience HG for the duration of their pregnancy.
Is HG Harmful To My Baby?
In most cases, HG itself is not harmful to the baby. However, the effects of HG can cause complications for the baby. If HG is causing excessive vomiting and dehydration the baby may be at risk of nutritional deficiencies and slow fetal growth. It is highly recommended that women with HG seek medical attention immediately if they become dehydrated and/or are unable to keep anything down.
The symptoms of HG are nothing different from morning sickness. However, they are much much stronger and completely relentless. Vomiting is the most dangerous effect from the nausea symptom because of what constant vomiting can cause. Many women have difficulty keeping anything down which causes them to become extremely dehydrated and have nutritional deficiencies which is definitely not healthy for her or the baby.
- Abdominal pain
- Severe weight loss
- Hypotension (Low-blood pressure)
- Extreme pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath
“She has been unable to work for a month and has been to the emergency room a total of 12 times in the past four weeks.”
Many times basic morning sickness medication is used such as Zofran which helps to battle the nausea. Bags of saline water (IV) are also used to help with dehydration. Some women who prefer a more holistic approach have found comfort in ginger based products such as tea’s and pills. Sea-Bands are also a popular choice amongst women to help with nausea relief.
Extremely severe cases may require inpatient or home care where intravenous fluids (IV) are used to restore fluids, electrolytes, nutrients, and vitamins. Patients can also be administered anti-nausea, antihistimine, and antireflux medication through the IV line. Some cases require a surgical procedure to install a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line) for long-term IV care.
Through my research I’ve found that more often than not, severe cases of HG really have no treatment. It depends on how her body reacts to certain medications and supplements. Something that may work for one person may not work for another.
HG can also become a financial burden. Because of the severity of the symptoms, women with HG often times need be hospitalized. According to the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation, it is estimated that $200 million per year are spent by women with HG just on hospitalization costs alone. It is estimated that the average emergency room visit in the U.S costs around $1,233. This is not including the cost of the IV bags (plan for at least 2), the blood test kit, and the ultrasound which are all normal procedure when visiting the ER while pregnant.
Severe cases that require inpatient or home care also accrue a large medical bill. Home care can cost as much as $750 per week (not including cost of IV bags and medication), and in many cases much more.
Many women also lose their jobs or are forced to take a leave without pay (assuming her job offers this option) which definitely doesn’t help the financial aspect of living with HG.
Where Can I Get Help?
Although HG is a somewhat obscure disease, there is a foundation dedicated to helping women with HG. The HER Foundation is considered an authority in the area of HG and offers valuable information and support groups in dealing with HG.
Our Personal Experience
May 22, 2016
My fiance is 9 weeks pregnant and we are happy and excited to welcome our newest family member. However, my fiance suffers from a rare condition known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum. We knew morning sickness was going to be accompanying her throughout the pregnancy (our first child caused her to through up an average of 4 times per day!), but we had no idea what was in store for us…
A woman suffering from HG will not be the same woman that she was before her pregnancy. I watched my fiance become virtually helpless. There were days where the only times she would get out of bed would be to quickly scurry away to the bathroom. She has been unable to work for a month and has been to the emergency room a total of 12 times in the past four weeks.
To add onto all of this, I’m not even living on the same island as her. A job opportunity took her and our toddler back to Oahu in March. I’ll be on Maui until May 31st which although isn’t that far away, this disease has definitely made it seem so.
I will keep this post updated as we move along this journey.
Update: June 4, 2016
It’s been about two weeks since I first published this article in response to our diagnosis of HG. I have recently moved back to Oahu and have been able to witness in person the effect that HG is having on the love of my life. We were able to get home care which will cost about $2100 June 23rd (luckily insurance will cover 90%). The nurse comes once a week to change the dressing around the PICC line which was installed about a week ago.
I’ve had to be “superdad” (not that I wasn’t before..) and a “crashed-course” nurse. Luckily for me school is out and that means I have a solid two months of vacation before I have to go back to teaching.
Our days consist of waking up at 6am and administering the first bag of IV along with daily vitamins and a dose of Zofran. The bag takes about 8 hours to empty and at around 3pm in the afternoon I hook her up to the second bag, again with a dose of Zofran.
I’m finding that she is for the most part OK during the day; able to walk around(kind of), snack on small meals, and come out of our bedroom for a cameo appearance in the living room. These are the ideal days. Some days she’ll sleep for the majority of the day and barely eat. As long as she’s not throwing up I count that day as a win.
Night time is a different story. After the second dose of Zofran at around 3pm she can’t eat and when she does it comes right back up. Sleepless nights follow and her comfort is the rug mat at the base of the toilet. Because of this we’ve been trying to eat a lot during the day and avoid eating at night. We’ll see how that goes.
Update June 24, 2016
It’s been about three weeks since our last update. I would say the past three weeks have been overall – better. She’s been able to move around a little more and seems much more active and engaged in conversation. Our daily regiment includes two liters (bags) of IV with three 4mg doses of zofran throughout the day. She’s also been prescribed diclegis which is taken for the nausea.
Two nights ago we had a scare when her headaches hit a new level. We went to the ER where they told us it is in part from dehydration and the pregnancy. Her headaches were absolutely unbearable and they gave her a dose of morphine. After about 10 minutes of the morphine, I asked her how she was feeling. She smiled and said, “good”. That was the first smile I saw all day! The doctors gave us the same speech about taking tylenol and motrin to help with the pain but we all know that doesn’t do jack sh*t when it comes to HG pains. Doctors wanted to do a spinal tap just to be sure there wasn’t any kind of bleeding in the brain; being that the headaches were really bad. The spinal tap came back negative and we were given discharge papers. She received two liters of IV, a dose of morphine, and a spinal tap.
Sometime last week we were referred to an OB (we are still under the care of our regular OB) who specializes in maternal health. He asked us the usual questions and gave us the usual answers. He did mention that sometimes hyperthyroidism can cause the nausea and vomiting that we’ve been experiencing. He took some tests but we haven’t heard anything back from him so we assume it was normal.
We are starting to approach the crossroads where some women get better and some don’t. Obviously we’ll be praying that we are in the former group. This is really taking it’s toll on us but we remain strong and resilient that it is going to work out. I’ll be updating in a few weeks and hopefully we can put an end to this crappy HG stuff.
To all those who have offered words of encouragement and empathy during this time, we really appreciate it! Thank you so much!
Update August 14, 2016
Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this post! We’ve been busy with various things and I haven’t been able to really dedicate time to this blog.
Things have been getting better. Although we are still on two bags of IV and zofran 3x a day, she’s been able to eat, move around, hold conversations, and stay out of the house for extended periods of time! All of these things were of course very difficult and nearly impossible early on the pregnancy. We haven’t been to the ER since the last update and she hasn’t thrown up for my gosh nearly 2 weeks! I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but I think the sun may finally be starting to shine. We have another doctor appointment on Friday where we will discuss the next steps for the PICC line.
I’ll continue to update this post as our journey progresses! Screw you Hyperemesis Gravidarum!
Are you familiar with HG? Comment below to let us know your story.
Author: Brennan Young
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