4th September 2017

How to get through hyperemesis

This one goes out to The Duchess of Cambridge (courtesy of fellow sufferer, the similarly regal Manisha Ferdinand)…  

I still have nightmares about hyperemesis.

It’s a weird feeling, to wake up each morning and feel your body do the opposite of what it’s supposed to as you gain consciousness, isn’t it? Instead of feeling like you’re coming to life; it feels as though you’re malfunctioning: the slow onset of hypersalivation; the rising tide of nausea; the oppressive weight of dyspepsia sitting uncomfortably on your chest as the little alien inside you basically eats you alive from the inside. But, you will get through it – and best of all, the horror of HG will make having a newborn seem like a walk in the park. Here’s how I coped; hopefully it’ll help you too…WARNING: CONTAINS LOTS OF CHAT ABOUT VOMIT. UNSURPRISINGLY.

Whatever makes you feel better; eat it.

Those of you that have or are experiencing hyperemesis (and I really, really feel for you) will know that the prospect of eating or drinking anything is horrifying. I had many arguments about which was worse when I was pregnant; throwing up food, continuously, or throwing up bile / dry heaving continuously (these arguments were basically with myself; I didn’t get out much during pregnancy). Both are pretty horrendous but there is something particularly awful about finally managing to put food in your mouth only to know exactly how it’s going to taste on the way back up.

For me, eating became quite traumatic; which in itself was upsetting because I LOVE food. Like, seriously think-about-dinner-whilst-eating-lunch; plan-entire-weekends-around-meals love food. Being scared of eating was alien territory, so when I found something that actually agreed with me for long enough to feel full before it made a reappearance (or, I should say, agreed with the developing kid), I clung onto it like a drowning man with a life-raft. Whether it was fry-ups (I think I did eight in one week at one point), plain mash or, oddly, Chinese food, I cared nothing for nutrition, or healthy eating, or balanced diets. With hyperemesis, the only thing that matter is that you eat. Your kid, it turns out, takes everything good that you put in your body and expels the rest; which is why you become such a husk of a person even as that little baby gets bigger and stronger. WOW ISN’T PREGNANCY GREAT. (I’m not sure if it’s easy to sense just how sarcastic I’m being but trust me – it’s there.)


I’m not sure there is anything quite as galling as the question ‘have you tried eating ginger?’ when you tell people you have severe morning sickness. OH, REALLY? NO I HADN’T TRIED THE ONE THING THAT EVERYONE SWEARS BY. The truth is, hyperemesis and traditional morning sickness are worlds apart, and trying to treat it with everyone’s favourite herbal remedy is a bit like trying to put a plaster on an amputated limb.

That said, I personally found orange foods in general to be marginally less horrifying than everything else: satsumas, carrots, and yes, ginger nut biscuits all managed to quell the nausea for the 15 seconds they were in my mouth, and stayed down marginally longer than most other things.

Man, hyperemesis is terrible. I’m remembering all over again.

If you’re unlucky enough to have hypersalivation; don’t be embarrassed. Use a Ribena bottle.

Now, this is a lovely add-on to the ongoing joy of throwing up 70 plus times a day. No-one really talks about hypersalivation – basically, you produce extra saliva because you’re being sick so often to protect your stomach lining – but apparently it’s really common for it to crash the already thrilling party hyperemesis is throwing for you. I had it for nearly four months, which meant four months of having either a bucket next to me or a Ribena bottle to carry around to discreetly spit into every thirty seconds, because swallowing that saliva was as sure a route to Vomsville as anything else.

It can really get you down, this, but I found the only way of coping with it was to not let it rule me. If you have to be up and about, then I really would recommend Ribena bottles for the forgiving pattern of the bottle (you really don’t want anything transparent). My partner lovingly referred to it as my ‘Go-Spits’ bottle. Needless to say we don’t drink Ribena anymore.

Don’t be afraid of asking for help.

Women who are lucky enough to have pregnancies untouched by sickness are doing an incredible thing – they are building a human being from scratch inside them. If you have hyperemesis, you are doing this at even greater personal cost; because you are growing that human being at the expense of your own health. Of course, you want the kid, you can’t wait etc etc but it is not your fault you have this horrible illness; you didn’t ask for it and you sure as hell shouldn’t attempt to try and get through it on your own. I was lucky enough not to be working during the 7 odd months where it was truly bad; if you don’t have that luxury, make sure your employer knows that what you are dealing with is a medical condition. Go to the doctor; get medication to help you manage it.  Ask your family, if you can, to come over and help you; make sure your partner is doing as much as he can for you. You are not being indulgent; nor is it an admission of weakness. It is the only way to get through it.

Don’t try and ‘do’ stuff.

Here is a list of things shouldn’t worry about if you’ve got hyperemesis:

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning / housework
  • Seeing friends / socialising
  • Exercising
  • Sex
  • Doing cultural stuff or ‘getting out of the house’
  • Any life admin
  • Honouring any arrangements

Here is a list of things that you should focus on if you’ve got hyperemesis:

  • Getting through each day
  • Your mental health

If any of the former list help you with the latter, then, great, have at it. But otherwise, the only thing you need to focus on is you. Doing stuff can come if, and when, you feel better.

Sleep as much as you feel you need to.

The only thing that stopped the constant nausea and hypersalivation for me was sleeping. So I did a lot of it. A SERIOUS LOT. Don’t be afraid to sleep all day Saturday and Sunday if you’re working; think nothing of spending the whole week in your PJ’s if you’re not. You’re not missing out on anything. Your bed is your friend; and trust me, it’s a friend you’re going to miss gravely when that baby arrives, so put some work into the relationship now.

Ignore everyone who stupidly might think –or, heaven help them, say – ‘But it’s only morning sickness!’

Only because ignoring them is probably the only thing you have the energy to do. Killing them stone dead requires too much effort.

@Ferders @mushmums

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