By Caitlin Dean
Nausea and vomiting go hand in hand with early pregnancy and many women actually look forward to experiencing it as a rite of passage and a sign that all is well with their little bundle of joy.
Pregnancy sickness, as it's better called, as it is rarely confined to the mornings, affects around 80% of pregnancies and although it's not very nice it, it is generally short lived and improves at around 12-16 weeks.
That's what I was expecting when my husband and I tried for a baby and, following an early miscarriage first time round, we were actually thrilled the morning I reached six weeks and threw up for the first time. For us though, that excitement rapidly turned into fear, misery and the most harrowing experience of our lives. Once I started being sick I simply didn't stop! Within days I was dehydrated from vomiting 20-30 times a day. Every waking moment was filled with torturous retching and vomiting stomach acid.
My entire body was crippled with nausea so intense that it felt like I had been poisoned.
I never experienced morning sickness, I have no idea what that is like... I had hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and I can tell you, it's a living nightmare. I never expected it, knew nothing about it and had no idea what was happening to me. And the nausea and vomiting aspect is actually only a small part of the overall condition which brings an incredibly heightened and warped sense of smell, excessive saliva production which increases dehydration, headaches, dizziness, loneliness and depression from the intense isolation which happens when an adult is suddenly ill for more than a week or so!
My own journey with hyperemesis is well documented on my blog Spewing Mummy, and luckily, for me, I've been able to turn my nightmare into something really positive. I'm now the chair person for the UK charity Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS), having pioneered their peer support network which matches sufferers with experienced volunteers to support them through their pregnancies. I manage a helpline for the condition, calling on my professional background as a nurse, and I provide education for other healthcare professionals. I've even written a couple of books on HG and am involved in researching the condition, its treatments and women's experiences.
Not all women are as lucky as me to escape HG with only a few minor long term issues.
Many of my HG friends carry physical and mental scars from HG. But that's what I'm working to change...
Now PSS is looking to team up with Tommy's to ensure that all women in the UK have access to up to date information to make decisions about treatment. Together we can reach more women to provide support.
Pregnancy Sickness Support
If you would like to find out more about what we do, volunteer for us or access our support please visit www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk.
If you want to learn more about hyperemesis gravidarum then please get a copy of my book. It has everything I could possibly tell you about HG, how to survive it, how to support women with it, recovering from it and planning another pregnancy with it. It's available at www.spewingmummy.co.uk/hg-shop/.
And, of course, check out my Spewing Mummy blog.