Since it was revealed earlier this month that Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge was expecting her second baby,
and suffering again with the debilitating illness of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (severe morning sickness), it seems that the whole world knows about it! But what is it actually like for someone who has this condition?
Well, I am very happy to say that I am currently 6 months pregnant with my second child, however, I am been suffering from this condition and wanted to share my experience, hoping that it may be of some use to other sufferers out there. When I was pregnant with my first child, my son, I had, what I would consider 'normal' morning sickness. This lasted from weeks 7 to 14, sick a couple of times a week, very sensitive to smells and generally quite unpleasant. After week 14 though, although some things turned my stomach, the sickness pretty much disappeared. This is what I was expecting the second time around. How wrong could I be!! I should have listened to everyone telling me that 'no two pregnancies are the same'!
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The sickness started in June around week 7, as expected, but I had a constant feeling much the same as a hangover. Again sensitive to smells, but the whole condition seemed to be much more aggravated by the hot weather (it was June) and the fact that I was now running around after a 3-year-old! This carried on to week 14, as I had expected, then week 15...and 16...and it began to get much worse. The foods that I could keep down were getting even more limited, most were salty snacks and sweet or dairy-based food was a complete no, no. Wotsits, Ritz crackers, sharp apples and ham seem to be the foods of choice. Eating a well-balanced diet wasn't really a priority, just eating enough quantity of food to be able to get through the day. The biggest risk with severe morning sickness is dehydration. Salty snacks, the fact that drinking fluids and keeping them down were becoming an ever-increasing battle and warm weather this was only going to end one way.
Week 17 came and I felt so bad I had to visit my GP. At this point, I couldn't keep anything, even water down, and had had very little to drink over three days. Immediately I was asked for a urine sample (as you usually are when pregnant) and tested for Ketone levels. If Ketone levels are present, I've since discovered, it basically means your body is in starvation mode and using its fat reserves as fuel - this is not good when you are expecting. Ketones are measured on a + scale. 0 is normal and +4 is the worst. At +2 you are usually hospitalized and mine had got to +3. I broke down in tears when the GP said I need to get to the hospital 'now', I think mostly through relief that I might be able to get some help and not stay feeling this terrible!
During my hospital stay, I was admitted for 24 hours during which time they gave me an injection of Cyclizine, and 4 litres of fluids via an IV drip. Although I felt far from 100%, I felt at least slightly more equipt to get myself back on track. I was also given Cyclizine tablets to take up to 3 times a day, which I gradually have worked down to just one tablet a day. As with any medication during pregnancy, I am always dubious to take anything, but as explained by a very good doctor friend of mine, that the risks of complications from dehydration outweigh any concerns they would have with this drug. It has been used to treat morning sickness for many years and drugs are very rarely classed as safe for use in pregnancy as it would be unethical to test drugs on pregnant women.
I am currently 27 weeks pregnant, and although the sickness is still there, it is manageable with the medication I take. I have developed a few rules that seem to manage the condition much better -
1. DRINK AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. My doctor friend told me this and it's true that the more you drink the better you feel! Upon hospital discharge it was so frustrating, as I had to drink with the smallest sips - a glass would take me an hour or so to get through. As time when on, it got much easier, and I now constantly have a sports-style water bottle with me, just to make sure I drink enough. Drink water (best) or fruit squashes. I try to have at least 3 litres a day.
2. DON'T DRINK FLUIDS AND EAT AT THE SAME TIME. I'm not sure why this works but I have to make sure I eat and drink separately. If I forget and swig fluids during a meal I instantly feel sick and it takes a good few hours to wear off.
3. TRY TO AVOID SUGARY FOODS. Raised blood sugar levels, seem to aggravate the condition. Try to snack on nuts, plain sandwiches and crackers as much as possible. I find a good breakfast sets me up for the day - I usually have fruit such as grapes and berries with yoghurt and nuts.
4. PACK AND EMERGENCY SICKNESS SURVIVAL KIT TO KEEP WITH YOU. If you start to feel ill when out and about there is nothing worse than panicking where you can go. Make sure you have your survival kit with you at all times, I have mine in the bottom of my handbag. In it are mints (sucking mints seems to really help with nausea), sick bags, a small pack of salted crackers (such as Ritz), almonds and wet wipes.
Hope this may be of help to you