Yes, I’ve tried ginger…

I wrote this article for publication in a health magazine several years ago. I thought it worth posting again here for anyone who might be struggling in pregnancy.

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a rare disorder characterized by severe and persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that may necessitate hospitalization. 

It hit around week five this pregnancy. And by hit I mean swelled within every corner of my being. That’s the thing with HG, you can’t escape it. The nausea and for some physical vomiting is unrelenting. Rest helps but it doesn’t actually aid in halting or easing the condition. 

Even now while I think back to the first trimester it takes me back, physically, to the experience of living with HG in those first months. Weeks five to sixteen were by far the worst for me. I survived on grapefruits, sips of apple juice and mashed potato (none of which I could keep down) and was pretty much bed bound. But even after that as the symptoms have lessened slightly I’ve still lost weight, been unable to keep any food or liquid down, no matter the quantity or the type, time of day or how quickly/slowly I eat. 

As I enter the last few weeks of my pregnancy now it’s completely commonplace for me to put down my plate and go and sit in the bathroom because I know within moments (and I wish this were an exaggeration) the food will re-emerge. This morning I ate two slices of toast and had a small coffee and was sick three times. Sometimes even drinking water, which I couldn’t do at all in the first trimester, is enough to make me vomit. 

I’ve lived with this the last eight months and during a previous pregnancy and it doesn’t get any easier the more used to it your body and mind become. If anything I’m so depleted now that every time I feel I’m going to vomit my entire body recoils. I read the other day about a woman who vomited so violently one of her retinas detached which possibly didn’t help, psychologically speaking. 

It is no exaggeration when I tell you that HG is a life changing condition for those who suffer it. It’s not something you can ‘work around’ or ‘just get on with’ unlike it’s very, very distant cousin twice removed, morning sickness. Though I cannot tell you how impossible it is to discuss your experience of HG without many people reminding you ‘nausea is normal in pregnancy’ and that they too had ‘awful morning sickness’. Some, though I’ve been lucky enough not to encounter anyone with this mindset, medical professionals are not immune to this attitude either. 

When I realised I was going to be afflicted a second time round I scoured forums and Facebook groups etc to try and get ahead of the game (turns out for me I couldn’t but for some early medication can be key to a reprieve from the physical act of being sick at least, for me it never was) and learned just how many women are fobbed off or denied vital care because they aren’t fully believed in their experience and this scared me. To live with this for nine months is torture enough let alone on top of that to have to fight for care or to be heard and taken seriously. 

I’m writing this sat waiting for a growth scan, I’ve had three additional scans, at week thirty six because they are concerned the baby isn’t growing as much as would be expected in the last few weeks of gestation. Thankfully he is healthy but smaller than they would like, considering I’m also highly likely to deliver before 40 weeks (but that’s a separate story). It’s hardly a surprise given I weigh less now than before I conceived and still to this day havn’t kept one single solitary meal or snack, or even dry cracker down. So to go through all of this and feel unsupported by friends, family, partners or medical staff is entirely inexcusable but really it comes down to lack of awareness and/or education. 

That’s the main reason I’m sharing my experience here like this. In the hope that someone may read my words and think twice before asking someone suffering with HG if they have ‘tried ginger as that really helped (them) with their nausea’. Believe me. We’ve tried it. We know it won’t work but we’ve still tried it. We’ve tried taking small sips of water and small bites of food. We’ve tried eating small and often. We’ve tried everything. Nothing works. Sometimes we know you mean well but mostly it feels like you aren’t taking us seriously because morning sickness is a breeze compared to this. And while we don’t want to undermine your experience it doesn’t help us feel supported. 

Katy Lee. 

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