Preventing Hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness)

This post has nothing to do with books. I’m writing it just in case there are women out there googling information on hyperemesis gravidarum–which is literally killer morning sickness. Back before the invention of IVs, women died from this. I nearly died from it, and I had a feeding tube implanted in my arm for months. If you throw up several times an hour for months on end you can rupture your esophagus and die. When I started throwing up blood, it always became a concern.

Hyperemesis gravidarum was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. Throwing up that much was awful. At first, I judged what I ate by how it would feel when I threw it up. Milk was the worst because it curdles in your stomach. For the first month or so of morning sickness, I would try to eat because I knew it was necessary to keep me and the baby alive, but my attempts to put food in my stomach didn’t matter. Nothing stayed down. Then I gave up on eating. You have no appetite when you’re extremely nauseous. This didn’t keep me from throwing up, by the way. Even with no food in my stomach, I still threw up stomach bile.

Once while I was throwing up my lungs stopped working. (The doctor said it was probably my diaphragm.) Those were some scary moments. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, and had no way to tell my husband who was sleeping in the other room that I was in trouble. (It was in the middle of the night, because yes, I would even wake up in the middle of the night and throw up.) I banged on the toilet to try and wake him up and alert him that I was having a problem. He slept through my banging, though. He can sleep through anything.

Luckily my lungs started working again and I was able to stagger back to the bed.

When my morning sickness got really bad I would pass out when I sat up. I was hospitalized, but they couldn’t really do anything except for IV’s to keep me alive. The anti-nausea drugs didn’t work. (Although Vicodin shots did help somewhat. I couldn’t keep pills down, but Vicodin shots probably kept me alive.) And with my first three pregnancies, the morning sickness lasted longer each time. When I was pregnant with the twins it lasted for five months.

And the worst part of it was the pain. Severe nausea causes pain, constant pain. The only time I wasn’t in pain was for a couple of seconds when I was transitioning from sleep to wakefulness. I always hoped for those seconds that the pain wouldn’t come back, but it always did–full force.

Part of the problem with having extreme morning sickness is that very few people understand what you’re going through. A lot of women have a little morning sickness and then think you’re a really big wimp because you don’t just tough it out and get on with your life like they did. This is like thinking diabetics are wimps for not being able to eat sugar. Our bodies are different.

I blame Freud in part for this attitude about morning sickness. He was the one who decided that it was all in women’s heads. Somehow that belief lingers in the public conscious. This is why I personally hate Freud and hope that God reincarnates him as a pregnant woman with hyperemesis gravidarum.

Freud did say one interesting thing about severe morning sickness, though. His belief was partially based on research that indicated women had less morning sickness in times of war or famine. I suppose it never occurred to him that a woman’s diet is different during times of war or famine.

Which brings me to the point of this article–Preventing hyperemesis gravidarum. For my first three pregnancies, the internet wasn’t around and my research in the library turned up nothing on the subject. Before my fourth pregnancy, I researched on the internet and bingo, I found some useful information. (You are probably wondering why in the world I would put myself through this four times, but that is the subject for a different blog.)

I found a website that midwives used to discuss pregnancy issues and one talked about a diet that helped prevent hyperemesis gravidarum. Basically, for three months before pregnancy women were put on a diet where they ate no meat, fat, sugar, preservatives or additives of any kind. (I can’t remember whether dairy was allowed. I had a little  skim milk for calcium but didn’t eat cheese.) If I remember right, the idea behind this diet was that it improved your liver’s ability to function.

I had never been able to give up sugar/chocolate before (or since.) But I did it back then because the thought of throwing up during pregnancy was enough to motivate me. Finding things I could eat was a struggle. I ate lots of fruit and vegetables. Those aren’t all that filling. I also made waffles from flour I’d ground myself and ate them plain. I ate a lot of potatoes. I couldn’t put butter on them so I made salsa from scratch just so they would have some flavor.  I ended up losing weight even though I was eating more than I usually did. I mean, I felt like I was eating all of the time because the stuff I ate wasn’t that filling.

(For pregnancies two and three I actually tried to gain weight before I got pregnant because I knew as soon as I was pregnant I would lose weight. I needed the reserve.)

The diet worked. I wish I could say that for that fourth pregnancy I had absolutely no morning sickness, but I still did. It just wasn’t nearly as extreme. I didn’t get sick until later in the pregnancy and it wasn’t as bad. I didn’t have to be hospitalized once. I was well enough that I could eat in the morning. As the day progressed I got sicker and sicker. Around noon I had to take to my bed and stay there, hoping that resting would help me keep down my food. But I was still able to eat a little. This probably sounds bad as far as normal pregnancies go, but it was a huge improvement. The pain was much much less and throwing up actually relieved the nausea, whereas before it wouldn’t.

I always tried to go to sleep at nine because I knew if I was up later the nausea would get bad. But I didn’t want to die. And with the other pregnancies, I really did. I remember my husband leaving in the morning and he would ask me if I needed anything. I would tell him, “Yeah, get me some arsenic.” I was only half joking.

Anyway, I should have put this article up long ago. I hope it can help some other women. If you are already pregnant and have hyperemesis gravidarum. I’m so sorry. I feel your pain. Or at least I did. Hang in there. Life gets better and holding that baby makes it all worth it.


Preventing Hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) — 13 Comments

    • Is this really possible to prevent from hypermesis gravidarum? Has any person tried this way? Waiting for responses…

      • I obviously tried it, since I wrote about it. I had one other friend who also tried this after I did and had a similar experience. Her Hyperemesis wasn’t as bad as her other pregnancies. But really, eating healthy three months before you get pregnant doesn’t have a downside. You just need to make sure you get your protein needs met, and that takes some planning.

  1. I feel your pain! Literally! Good job doing it 4 times. I could only physically, emotionally and mentally do it 3 times and each got worse. You are a momma beast! I remember thoughts of ‘it would be so much easier to just not eat anything and have it be over’. But my anxiety would not let me… I wish I knew this advice before, but I am sure you did your best and I know I had to go through those experiences. To let me know that I am enough, I can do hard things and the reality of this life and my mortality. Thank you for your inspiration, your beautiful way with words and sharing your vulnerabilities. You go girl!!!!

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I will be linking to it! I am so glad that you found something that helped you. I’ve never heard of that method before – the method I used successfully was a very-low-carb diet done pre-conception (also very difficult, just like yours!). I’m glad there is more than one good method out there. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I stumbled upon this post while searching the internet on how to prevent HG in my next pregnancy. Your post reminds me of my first pregnancy, nearly everything you describe happened to me and more. I had a ruptured esophagus, and looked anorexic towards the end of my pregnancy. I had to work really hard to keep food down in my second pregnancy. I would eat and then chew gums to distract myself. I would chew about 20-30 gums in a day. It helped distract my mind. I could not enjoy either of my pregnancies due to the nausea. I am looking forward to having one more baby before I give up. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  4. Thank you! I’m gearing up to trying for a 4th after 3 HG pregnancies. After the last one my husband had a Vasectomy. He will get it reversed next year. I’m not done and I can do this one more time. Thanks for this, it gives me hope!

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