Comparing morning sickness to Hyperemesis Gravidarum is like comparing a paper cut on your finger to cutting your arm off.
Yes, they are both a form of trauma (they are both a form of sickness), yes, they are both on the same limb (they both occur in pregnancy) but with a paper cut, like morning sickness, you can push through and get on with your day. When you cut your arm off, as with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, if you don’t get appropriate medical attention, there is a very real possibility you could die.
It is believed Hyperemesis Gravidarum affects around 2% of pregnancies. Although it is believed the number may be higher however due to lack of diagnosis of this condition, a lot of the time these women who are suffering from a life threatening condition are often passed over.
I have been unfortunate enough to suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum and while there are so many people who mean well when they offer advice, it only makes things worse. This may sound harsh to some, but when you are suffering like this, you want recognition that your illness is real and to not be dismissed.
So I asked the women in my Hyperemesis support group what they thought to be the worst things people could say to them and here are the top 7 things you shouldn’t say to someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
1 – “Have you tried ginger/crackers/sea bands/herbal supplements/acupuncture….”
If it is even remotely associated with assisting with any form of nausea or vomiting – I’ve tried it. If the strongest medications aren’t working then ginger most certainly won’t work for me either.
2 – “You should just eat lots of small meals”
If I could eat, and keep things down, then I’d be over the moon. But I can’t. I can’t even stand to swallow my own saliva let alone a cracker or sandwich. I understand eating often helps with morning sickness however again, this is different.
3 – “Can’t you just forget about it? You know, mind over matter.”
There’s about as much chance of me being able to use positive thinking to cure Hyperemesis as there is for a surgeon to perform surgery with only positive thinking as anaesthesia.
4 – “Oh, I had that too – I used to just throw up and get on with my day.”
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a rare condition that affects approximately 2% of pregnancies. It usually involves losing more than 5% of your body weight, a result of vomiting in excess of 20 times a day (some women vomit more than 100 times a day). Most women with Hyperemesis are unable to keep even fluids down and become so severely dehydrated they are hospitalised. Only vomiting once or twice is what we call a ‘fluffy’ day.
5 – “Do you think all that medication is necessary?”
If I want any hope at not becoming severely dehydrated and malnourished then yes, yes it is. If I want to actually survive this pregnancy then yes, yes it is. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a severe, life threatening condition and the medication I am on allows me to give my baby and myself the best chance at being healthy as possible. This condition is so severe that the anti-emetic used is the same one reserved for Chemotherapy patients.
6 – “Did you hear that xyz medication was linked with birth defects/pregnancy complications/early labour/any other pregnancy related problem…”
There are so many factors in pregnancy that can cause complications, of course with any medication, there is a slight possibility that it could cause an adverse affect. However, without said medication, it is guaranteed that I will become severely dehydrated and malnourished. While your concern is understood, the medication I am on is between my doctor and I.
7 – “Just remember, if you’re sick it means the baby is healthy.”
If only this were true. The degree to which I am sick is no reflection on the health of my baby. With my second pregnancy I had severe Hyperemesis and still miscarried. The Hyperemesis is from how my body reacts to the pregnancy hormone, almost like an allergic reaction. There’s also a lot of women who have no nausea at all and a perfectly healthy pregnancy… oh how we envy those women.
The main point here is that we don’t want to hear that you had a blissful pregnancy, we don’t want to hear that drinking ginger ale and eating dry crackers worked for you and we certainly don’t want to hear any advice about the amount of medications we are on. We want support, we want validation and we want to know that you care for us.
If you ever come across someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, sit and listen to them, offer to do the dishes and babysit their kids. Do whatever you can to be supportive – it really is a devastating condition.