A novelist writes about the mind, body and soul.

Acute Morning Sickness – Men! More sympathy please

When news of Kate Middleton’s acute morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum as its known in medical circles, hit the news last week, I was really annoyed by the chauvinistic remarks on my facebook page: They were along the  lines of “if she’s going into hospital for a few days for morning sickness, how long would she need for appendicitis, several months? And “I have a sickness  – I hate mornings” etc.  A few (I presume childless women joined in)  I wrote in her defence “it’s no joke.” Not that I suffered from acute morning sickness, but I know what it’s like to be so seasick that  I remember thinking, I’d rather die than go through this. There is nothing much worse than feeling so sick you can’t move.

I have two friends who have been hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum – neither of them ever got pregnant again. Men on the whole, don’t seem very sympathetic to the idea of women being sick in pregnancy. I remember my husband telling me that my own morning sickness was “psychological” Yes I could have murdered him.

The following is an account sent to me by email from one of my friends when I asked her to remember what had happened, during her last pregnancy. She told me the story recently and I remember her saying that her husband had to stop work to look after their two young children as she spent  about three months in and out of hospital.

I can’t quite remember at what point it started, but quite early on and quickly got bad. Bad being throwing up continuously – bile and blood and all! I think I lasted a couple of days before I went into hospital to be rehydrated, and strangely it stopped after a day or so of being there. So they discharged me and I had a few good days at home and it kicked in again, so back I went to hospital. This was the pattern for a few weeks – fine in hospital, but bad at home. I only had to get in the car to go home and I’d be sick.

I realised there must be some psychosomatic dimension (apparently for some people the colour of the walls can trigger it!) which made it twice as frustrating because I REALLY didn’t want to be in hospital. I tried staying with my sister but that didn’t work. I tried hypnosis and acupuncture, but no good. My consultant told me his experience was that it tended to happen to high-achieving control freaks, which I suppose applied to me once (still a control freak, but not now achieving much). I think a progesterone imbalance also has something to do with it, which is why it’s more common with female babies. (A future queen?)

Anyway, it dragged on and on until I ended up being just as sick in hospital as out, and they started to worry I was losing too much weight and that it was a risk to the baby (I never felt she was at risk – in the end born over 9lbs). So they put me on some hideous food drip through a tube into my chest for 2 weeks – didn’t help! By now I’d really had enough and thought I’d go mad. The anti-nausea drugs didn’t seem to do much and the food was so grim. I used to pace the corridors at night unable to sleep a wink and craving cold milk, looking and feeling a complete fright. Finally they decided to put me on a steroid called prednisilone, which they were a bit anxious about because they didn’t know if it might transfer across the placenta and affect the baby’s future growth, etc. There was a doctor at St.Thomas’s who talked them through it. And luckily it worked, hooray! So home I went, now about 5 months pregnant, and developed a horse-like appetite, got stronger and refused to go anywhere near the hospital again and Grace was born at home.


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