The pregnancy symptom that has recently been making headlines is one that I have personally experienced not once or twice but three times! It’s more than just an extreme case of morning sickness – it’s a debilitating condition that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. This intense sickness is so life altering that it affects not only a pregnant woman, but also those closest to her.
While there is very little relief or treatment for women with hyperemesis gravidarum, there are several things loved ones can do to help make her 9 months of hell a little less unbearable…
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**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.
1. Don’t call it “morning sickness”
Hyperemesis gravidarum is not just morning sickness on steroids. Don’t expect to understand what she’s going through even if you had “really bad” morning sickness. Hyperemesis gravidarum is completely debilitating and women who suffer from it are often unable to function, even hospitalized, so comparing her condition to the nausea and vomiting that 90% of pregnant women experience is kind of insulting.
2. Know the symptoms
The symptoms will be the same as those of morning sickness at first. But if she starts vomiting more than 10 times a day and is unable to keep down any food at all then it’s a warning sign. Watch for signs of dehydration, anemia and low blood pressure which could all indicate that she’ll need additional treatment.
For a complete list of the signs and symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum check out Web MD or The American Pregnancy Association.
3. Believe her
A lot of people believe that nausea is a “mind over matter” situation. And while the embarrassing thought of vomiting in a public place is enough to cause any women severe anxiety, it’s not the reason why she’s nauseated. Don’t assume that she’s just being dramatic. Believe that her pain is real and don’t expect her to suck it up and go on with her day.
4. Don’t offer her crackers and ginger ale
Whatever home remedy you can think of for nausea and vomiting – she’s tried it.
5. Choose unscented
Women with hyperemesis gravidarum have an extremely heightened sense of smell and anything that’s too strong (even if it’s their favorite scent) will make their nausea worse. Switch to unscented products or skip them all together.
6. NO SMOKING
The smell of cigarette smoke is the most offensive one for a women with hyperemesis gravidarum. You may think you’re being kind enough by not subjecting her to second hand smoke but bear in mind that some women with hyperemesis gravidarum can smell it from 100 feet away depending on which way the wind blows. They can also smell it on your clothing, skin and hair so if you’re smoker – either consider quitting (recommended) or keep your distance.
7. Keep stinky foods away
While salami and blue cheese might be your preferred bedtime snack, it’s a death wish for a women with hyperemesis gravidarum. Any foods that have a strong smell should be kept out of her house or wrapped tightly enough that she doesn’t detect it. The smell of cooking, especially frying, or anything with onions, garlic or heavily seasoned foods is also a big no-no in the home of a women with hyperemesis gravidarum.
8. Hide while you eat
If you can’t cook or bring home your favorite foods then what’s a person to do? Just because she can’t eat doesn’t mean you don’t have to – just don’t do it in front of her.
Despite the fact that she can’t eat and that all food and the smell of food makes her vomit – she can’t help but fantasize about all the food she wants to eat. She is starving but still experiencing all the same pregnancy cravings, so watching someone else eat food that she so desperately wants is just plain torture.
Eat in the car, eat before you come home or while she’s sleeping but please, don’t eat in front of her!
9. Make her fresh juice to drink
Keeping down food while suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum is next to impossible. The trick is to find things that are high in nutrients and can be absorbed by the body quickly so that even if she can keep it down for a few minutes before vomiting, she will still experience some of the benefits and hopefully stave off dehydration. While soup sounds like a great option, hot foods can irritate the stomach and cold soup just isn’t appetizing.
The best solution? Fresh juiced vegetables and fruit. The store bought juices often contain too much sugar which also irritates the stomach, but if you have a juicer or blender, make her some out of vegetables and fruit. Play around with combinations that appeal to her – some women find lemon and citrus very soothing for nausea – while others can’t handle the acidity.
[The Breville Juice Fountain is my personal favorite]
10. Let her sleep
If I could have crawled into a cave and hibernated for 9 months while growing my babies that’s what I would have done. Sleeping and vomiting are the only two constants while battling hyperemesis gravidarum. Most likely she will be taking some type of anti-emetic medications that will make her extremely drowsy. Factor in that she will have absolutely no energy thanks to her zero calorie intake and sleep will be all that she will be able to do. Even sitting upright and watching television will require energy that she doesn’t have to spare. So let her sleep – because at least if she’s asleep, she’s not vomiting.
11. Give her a massage
With all of that time in bed and the fact that she’s on the verge of dehydration, she will find her muscles in a state of atrophy. This often results in leg cramps and back spasms. A massage every once in a while will help with blood flow. There are also several acupressure points that can help ease up nausea. If you’re not great with your hands, then you can book her a pregnancy massage with her favorite spa!
12. Avoid the road less traveled
Nausea is nausea whether it’s motion sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. If you’re driving her around take care to avoid bumpy roads and sharp turns. Even if she’s never had motion sickness before – the now delicate state of her stomach will make every movement feel like an internal earthquake. Make sure to pack vomit bags for the car ride and prepare to have to pull over several times.
13. Stand by her
Literally. Standing up for any amount of time is a bad idea for a woman with hyperemesis gravidarum. Low blood pressure, low sugar levels and near starvation almost definitely means she will faint. If she needs to stand, stay close by and give her an arm to lean on for support. If she feels faint, elevate her legs to help the blood rush back to her head.
AND THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE OF ALL…
14. Clean the toilet
This is where a woman with hyperemesis gravidarum will spend the majority of her time. Some women can vomit up to 100 times in a single day. And the absolute last thing she will want to do after all that is clean. There is nothing, I repeat – NOTHING, more meaningful to her than to have someone else clean the toilet.
For more information and support, visit the HER Foundation [Hyperemesis Education & Research] at www.helpher.org.
Bonus Tip: Twins?
A common myth about a hyperemesis pregnancy is that it’s a sign of twins. I promise you that it’s not true.
Women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum while pregnant with one baby can be just as sick as a woman with hyperemesis carrying twins or more.
So don’t tell her it might be twins, I guarantee it won’t help.
For more information on twin pregnancies, check out TwinStuff.com