Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Image adapted via Flickr/ Scrap Pile

Seven weeks ago, I gave birth to my long-awaited fourth child. I remember the night before his delivery, anticipating many things that were to come, and just how much our life was going to change. As worried as I was about my first c-section, and through all the excitement of finally getting to meet my little man face-to-face, I was happily anticipating something else: not feeling so sick anymore.

I expected to have morning sickness with this pregnancy—it's estimated that 50-90% of pregnant women have some form of morning sickness during early pregnancy—and just like clockwork, the nausea began when I was five weeks along. It started off relatively tame, but over the following weeks, I knew this “morning sickness” wasn't going to be like what I had previously experienced. And at 8-weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

HER (Hyperemesis Education & Research) Foundation defines Hyperemesis Gravidarum as “a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. It is generally described as unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids.” It's far beyond typical morning sickness, and it is characterized by symptoms that include the “loss of greater than 5% of pre-pregnancy body weight (usually over 10%), dehydration, and production of ketones, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic imbalances, and difficulty with daily activities.” Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) typically begins early in pregnancy, and according to the American Pregnancy Association, it peaks at around 20 weeks. For about 20% of women with HG, symptoms can last the entire pregnancy. 

{ MORE: Morning Sickness Got You Down? Try These Foods to Help! }

And that was me. 

Living through pregnancy with HG is not easy. The difficulty goes beyond the physical drain, and it becomes a mental battle to cope, stay positive, and do your best to function. When it hit me, it hit so hard. I was finding myself with nausea through the whole day and night,  and I was vomiting up to 12 times a day. It took everything out of me, and each week, I held onto the hope that it would go away, or at least ease up. And each week it didn't.

In one way, I used the HG as a sign that my pregnancy was still viable. Before feeling the baby move, it was a reminder that everything was going as it should. But week after week, as I lost weight instead of gaining it, that worry remained in my mind. In a real way, though, HG was an added stress to an already stressful pregnancy. I had to work hard to stay positive, I had to keep myself hydrated, and I had to find some way to ease the sickness.

I immediately went on anti-nausea medication available here in Canada. I was on the largest recommended dose, and with one of the big side effects of the medication being fatigue, I made it a priority to rest and take naps when I could. I spent some time analyzing what increased the feelings of sickness, trying to find some reason for the madness. I found that meat—both the smell and the taste—would increase the symptoms of HG, so I made an early decision to eat only vegetarian. I ate a diet of mostly salads, fresh fruits, hummus, soup, and vegetables. I found it was gentle on my stomach, and well, to be honest, it didn't cause too much trouble when/if it came back up.  


By the end of my pregnancy and battle with HG, I had lost 21 pounds total. The day after the delivery was the first day I felt some relief from the nausea and vomiting. And although it took a while to get my appetite back, it was a wonderful day where everything didn't make me feel ill.

I was thankful to have a supportive doctor who kept an eye on me and my HG. My husband helped out a lot and took over some of the chores that would increase the ill feeling (like grocery shopping and anything with strong smells), and I found that being more kind and gentle with myself, and doing what I could to frame this experience as a positive, went a long way in coping and surviving. 

Some coping tips that helped me through pregnancy:

  • Get to the doctor early and discuss medications to help relieve the nausea and vomiting.
  • If you find you can't keep any water down, head to the hospital. Dehydration is no joke.
  • Try to see if there's a pattern to what makes you feel more sick and stay away!
  • Eat what you can, and don't feel bad if it's not the most healthy option.
  • Ask for help from family and friends, or hire help if you need it.
  • Make sure you're getting enough sleep. Having a good night's rest can help ward off the sickness, or at least make it easier to cope with.

{ MORE: Don't Call It Morning Sickness: What You Should Know About NVP }

:: Did you have HG during pregnancy? What are some tips you can give to others to help them cope? Share in the comments! ::

What do you think?

Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Devan McGuinness is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief, which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss. Winner of the 2012 Bloganthropy Award and named one of Babble's “25 bloggers wh ... More

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  1. Lindsay says:

    I suffered from this during my last pregnancy and again this time – only much worse this time. I can’t keep any food down and only Gatorade will stay in my system. Anti-nauseants aren’t doing anything for me. My doctor has told me to just stay in bed as standing for more than a few minutes makes me throw up. At what point should I be going to the hospital for iv fluids? Am I fine as long as I am still drinking? So far I have lost 12 pounds in 6 weeks.

    • Megan Klay says:

      Hi Lindsay – I’m sorry to hear you’ve been so ill; that sounds miserable! I would give your doctor’s office a call and ask that very question, they’ll be able to give you the best recommendation. Best wishes!

  2. LIZ says:

    i was lucky because i didnt suffer from this, i had heartburn though

  3. The only thing that worked for me was fruit juice popsicles with sips of white grape juice here and there (yes, it had to be white grape juice, and only a sip or two at a time). I ended up having to get 2 fluid IV’s (amazing what insurance charges for a bag of fluid!). The doctors told me to do fruit juices and soda because at least I was getting some calories that way, and the water made me feel even worse (funny how with morning sickness they recommend avoiding water because of this and drinking other fluids). 😛 Both pregnancies 1st trimester I lost 15-20lbs, but finally was able to eat and enjoy food again a few weeks into 2nd trimester. Good article, but unfortunately for some of us there is no “cure” until it goes away…my heart goes out to anyone who has to do 9 months of this.

    • Gema says:

      Oh my gosh! That fruit juice popsicle thing saved me too! Water made me sick through both pregnancies! The first time I went in for an IV, the nurse ignored me and I decided to leave and go to a different hospital after waiting three hours for her to come in with the IV! I lost weight both pregnancies too but my first was the worst. My morning sickness didn’t go away until about month 6! And then I gained a lot. Half of it was due to swelling in my feet and legs! My body was dehydrated so it started retaining water where it could. It chose to store it in my legs! I’ve known a few mothers that are sick up until delivery. Poor things. But in the end, you forget it all when you’re holding that precious little thing.

  4. Aubrey says:

    My best friend went through HG with all 5 pregnancys. She found out (by accident) that twizzlers and gummy bears seemed to help settle her stomach so that she could at least keep water down. But the gummy bears had to be a certain brand made with fruit juices and the twizzlers had to be name brand.

  5. Maria says:

    I too had HG with my last two pregnancies. To tell the truth, nothing really helped me with hg. I was constantly in the hospital for dehydration and I lost about 15 pounds total. I was even placed on bedrest at around 13 weeks and nothing worked. I appreciate the information that was provided in this article in the event that I have another child I will make sure that I pay more attention to myself and the triggers that set off my hg.

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