Is it even possible to eat while suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum?
The answer is… SORT OF
With persistent nausea and vomiting, eating is likely the last but also the only thing on a pregnant woman’s mind. She wants to eat – she wants to eat SO badly! But she also doesn’t want to eat because eating would mean vomiting and she really… REALLY… doesn’t want to vomit anymore.
The following tips may sound very extreme, but that’s what hyperemesis gravidarum is. It’s not just a bit of nausea – it’s an actual inability to eat food without vomiting it back up again… for months on end. Eating sounds impossible, but with a few strategic tips – it’s entirely possible to avoid being fed through a tube.
Here are a few tips for how to stay nourished during those nine long months.
Tip #1: Accept thy curse
The trick to eating while suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum is to accept the fact that nothing you eat will stay down. But you will need to find ways to get nutrients into your body anyway, in order for you and your baby to survive, and to reduce the need to be hospitalized and fed through a tube. The sooner you can accept the fact that you’re in this for the entire pregnancy, the less chance you have of risking a hospital stay.
ACCEPT that you will feel like crap every single day of your pregnancy until the day that baby pops out of you and not one second before.
DON’T expect to feel better after vomiting as if you just ate some bad shrimp.
ACCEPT that no home remedy for morning sickness will help you.
DON’T count down the days until the end of the first trimester, expecting it to go away.
ACCEPT that you are strong enough to do this and that the benefits will greatly outweigh the struggle in the end.
DON’T tell others that you are fine when you are clearly suffering. Tell them how to help you.
Tip #2: Every Second Counts
Don’t avoid eating altogether, just because you know that it’s going to come back up again. If you can keep something in your stomach for just 5 minutes, then it’s better than nothing at all.
There are some characteristics to look for when choosing a food for this purpose:
Fast absorption: Liquids absorb faster than solids. Electrolyte drinks can help battle dehydration or you can try making your own if you find them too sugary. Fresh made juices, smoothies or clear broth are another good option. Try to avoid drinking plain water (see Tip #3).
High in vitamins and nutrients: Try to go as healthy as possible. Meal replacement drinks, fresh made juices or vegetable soup have all the good stuff without the junk, because you don’t have any time to waste.
Smooth texture: If it goes down easy – it will come up easy. It may seem disturbing to have to choose a food based on what it will be like coming back up, but that is exactly what you will need to do to survive HG. Contrary to popular belief, things like sweet, juicy fruit like apples, berries and melons (which you WILL crave while dehydrated and nauseous) may not be the best option. The natural fruit juices get absorbed very quickly leaving the pulp behind which is extremely unpleasant coming back up. If you absolutely must have fruit, then blend it into a juice or smoothie first.
Curdle Factor: Yet another disturbing characteristic, consider which foods will curdle in your stomach before they make a re-appearance. I craved milk (and cereal) during my pregnancies and it was extremely unpleasant coming back up in chunks. Most dairy-based items will be the same and can cause even more disturbances on an upset stomach. Clear fluids are the better option.
Tip #3: Avoid Water
I know this sounds counter-productive for someone who is battling dehydration but plain old-fashioned water is one of the hardest things to drink with HG.
Water can often induce vomiting when you have an extra sensitive stomach, especially after eating something. It seems to stir everything up in the stomach and cause more damage than good.
Staying hydrated is essential and some alternatives to water include:
Natural mineral water: the fizziness sometimes helps, sometimes makes it worse. Try a flavored water (like citrus) to see if it appeals to you.
Coconut water: try it both cold and at room temperature to see which you prefer, as this can change the flavor.
Popsicles (or anything frozen): they melt slowly which can sit better than having liquid go straight into your stomach. Those made with fresh fruit are also a great option, but avoid added sugar as it can irritate the stomach. Beware of flavors that are too sweet or sour as the taste buds will be in overdrive.
Ice chips: if all else fails and you’re not able to keep down any liquids at all, then sucking on ice chips is one way to stay hydrated.
It sounds extreme but it’s not at all unusual for a woman with hyperemesis gravidarum to be unable to keep down even a sip of water to take her prenatal vitamins or prescription anti-emetics (I speak from experience).
Tip #4: Tiny Portions
I’m not exaggerating when I say tiny.
Small portions are usually recommended for nausea and vomiting but I’m not just talking about “small.” When I say “tiny” I mean, “itty-bitty-not-enough-food-for-a-mouse”…
Try one tablespoon of food or liquid every 10-15 minutes.
If it stays down, have another and so on.
If it doesn’t stay down, try half a tablespoon.
You can also try experimenting with different ways to eat or drink. Try drinking through a straw vs. no straw, a spoon vs. sipping, hot vs. cold. You may have to think outside the box and even try using syringes or shot glasses to take tiny sips of liquid.
Keep experimenting with tiny portions. It may seem tedious and pointless but one spoonful of food is better than none at all.
I know the pain of hyperemesis gravidarum all too well having battled it with all three of my pregnancies.
It’s easy to avoid eating all together in an effort to avoid vomiting when that’s all you’ve been doing for weeks. But starvation, dehydration and malnutrition are far worse things to struggle with than vomiting.
Chances are – you will never be able to eat properly throughout an HG pregnancy, instead you will spend the entire 9 months simply “trying to eat.”
During all of three my pregnancies, I suffered with hyperemesis gravidarum which I explained to others as “an extreme case of morning sickness” mostly because I wasn’t sure how else to explain it.
But hyperemesis gravidarum is NOT just an extreme case of morning sickness.
While it is characterized by nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, it is actually so much more than that. The side effects of hyperemesis gravidarum include dehydration and malnutrition which cause one problem after another.
If you really want to know what it’s like living with this cruel condition, here are an additional 11 side effects hyperemesis gravidarum has on a pregnant body.
1. Fainting Spells
Actual fainting spells and feeling faint are a very common complaint for pregnant women with HG. Dehydration, low blood pressure and low blood sugar levels are all to blame. Standing or even sitting upright for long amounts of time can be very difficult to do. You may want to invest in a blood pressure monitor to help keep track.
2. Muscle Atrophy
Women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum spend most of their days lying in bed (when they’re not hanging headfirst over the toilet bowl). With very little energy to spare and a steady stream of sleep-inducing medications, there’s not much else they can do. This usually results in their muscles becoming weak and stiff. A gentle massage with some pain relieving essential oils can greatly help.
3. Leg Cramps
I can honestly say that the pain of leg cramps while bedridden with hyperemesis gravidarum was the closest thing to labor pains I have ever experienced. While many women experience leg cramps, HG or not, dehydration makes them 10 times more painful and harder to recover from (pretty sure I was limping to the toilet for a month). *Take note that sometimes, a pain in the calf can signal something worse*
4. Sore Throat
This should be an obvious one to anyone who has ever thrown up before… Vomiting multiple times in a day results in a raw, sore throat that makes even speaking painful. Considering that most of what comes up is bile, the lining of the throat can be severely damaged and it’s not uncommon for women to have blood in their vomit both from tearing the throat and/or esophagus. An anesthetic throat spray is a great alternative to sucking on lozenges.
5. Acid Reflux
So we’ve established that everywhere from the mouth to the stomach (and vice versa) resembles a war zone. This means of course that acid reflux will be the norm for the duration of the pregnancy. This, again, is something many women without HG experience, but this time – it’s not just a common case of heartburn. With torn tissues in the throat and esophagus – it can cause a constant burning sensation in the chest. If you can manage liquids, there are organic teas that can help with heartburn. If regular antacids aren’t working, then talk to your doctor about a prescription strength one.
And if you weren’t already dehydrated and spending most of your time in the bathroom already, then this ought to fix that. You can expect this mess after receiving a round of IV fluids, taking a suppository or eating and drinking a little bit after a few days of not eating or drinking at all. Basically your entire gastrointestinal system gets messed up thanks to hyperemesis gravidarum. You may have to wait it out, or consider using an all-natural remedy.
7. Tooth Decay
All of that acidic vomit does a real number on your tooth enamel. And if you’re not getting the calcium and other nutrients you need for strong bones then you will notice it first in your teeth. We tend to forget how important chewing actual food is to keep our teeth healthy and when you’re suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum there is very little chewing, biting or eating going on at all. Let’s not forget about how even inserting a tooth brush into the mouth can cause gagging and induce vomiting. Instead, choose a mouthwash that has enamel protection AND is alcohol free and rinse out your mouth after you vomit.
8. Hair Loss
We know about postpartum hair loss but did you know that you can also lose your hair if you’re extremely dehydrated and malnourished? So many vitamins and minerals are important for the growth of healthy hair and when you’re not getting those, your body has to steal them from somewhere else. So instead of boasting the luscious locks that many women claim to have during pregnancy – I was plucking handfuls of it off my pillowcase. Switch to a shampoo with castor oil to help strengthen your hair, and continue to use it postpartum.
9. Dry Skin
Dehydration can do some pretty crazy things to your skin. Not only does it get really dry and itchy, but it also loses a lot of it’s elasticity. I remember nurses doing “the pinch test” on the back of my hand each time I went into the hospital and each time it stayed up longer and longer. If you’re battling dehydration on the inside, try to seal in moisture on the outside. Make sure to choose an unscented moisturizer so as not to irritate your ultra-sensitive sense of smell.
10. Motion Sickness
If you’ve never experienced motion sickness before then prepare for the bumpy ride that is hyperemesis gravidarum. The delicate state of the stomach just can’t handle being tossed and turned. While anything and everything seemed to trigger nausea and vomiting anyway – moving around at all brought it on much faster. I would get motion sickness if I walked too fast or moved my head too quickly or even when I turned over in bed. Car rides were unbearable. Even feeling the baby kick, which should be a joyous sensation, triggered the nausea and vomiting. Sea bands became my best friend and I kept them on for the entire 9 months.
This was perhaps the worst of the side effects of hyperemesis gravidarum for me. The loneliness of the long days and nights I spent in bed – unable to even hold a conversation, left me feeling isolated and imprisoned. I couldn’t care for my other children and had to depend entirely on others for help which was very difficult for a control freak like me to do. I even needed help to shower.
The most depressing thought of all was that I had months and months of this ahead of me, unlike a bout of the stomach flu or food poisoning which tends to resolve itself in a matter of a few days. Nothing I tried gave me any relief – no combination of prescription medications, IV fluids or hospitalization solved the problem.
I seriously regretted getting pregnant and briefly contemplated terminating the pregnancy in order for it to end. Throughout my second pregnancy, I suffered from prenatal depression, which was made worse by the side effects of hyperemesis gravidarum.
Hyperemesis gravidarum and morning sickness are not the same.
A woman suffering from HG is unable to care for herself and will require much help and attention during her pregnancy. And while there are a lot of home remedies and even pharmaceuticals available for nausea and vomiting – the only real cure for HG is giving birth.
For more information and resources visit the Hyperemesis Education & Research Foundation at www.helpHER.org
The pregnancy symptom that has 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. In addition to a constant state of nausea and uncontrollable vomiting, there are so many other side effects that can leave a pregnant woman out of commission for nearly the entire pregnancy.
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…
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. Offering the simplest solution that most people suggest for simple cases of morning sickness is insulting to a woman with HG. Sufferers of hyperemesis gravidarum are usually unable to keep any food or liquid down at all, so while your intentions might be good, it’s important to realize that crackers and ginger ale just won’t cut it. They need much more extreme solutions and usually end up hospitalized with an IV for dehydration or a feeding tube up their nose.
5. Choose unscented
Women with hyperemesis gravidarum have an extremely heightened sense of smell. Anything that’s too strong (even if it’s their favorite scent) will make their nausea worse. Products designed to cover up bad smells, such as bath and body products, hand soaps, deodorant or air fresheners can make the situation 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 a very far 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. Experiment with liquids
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.
Soup is a tried and true option but sometimes hot food can irritate the stomach. Blended soups are normally preferred over chunky ones and the fewer aromatic ingredients, the better.
One of the best solutions is 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.
Another great solution for a liquid based diet is protein packed meal replacement drinks. There are so many different flavors, brands and varieties to choose from, that there’s bound to be one she can stomach. Popular favorites are the Ensure Shakes and Vega Smoothies.
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 this infographic from TwinStuff.com
A twin pregnancy is different from a regular pregnancy in a lot of ways. It means your body will have to accommodate two fetuses, which means you can grow larger and heavier than when you’re having a singleton pregnancy. But, more than the evident differences, a twin pregnancy also means additional stress, morning sickness, and prenatal visits, among others.
The best way to have a healthy twin pregnancy is to know what is in store for you. This infographic does exactly that – to guide you on a week-by-week basis of the changes you will go through over the nine months. Plus, it also provides tips on how you can take care of yourself and your babies as you go through these changes.
In this infographic, you will learn about taking prenatal vitamins and supplements at the start of the first trimester. It will also provide timely suggestions such as talking about names for your twins at 14 weeks into the twin pregnancy. By the time you reach your last trimester, it will then show you that you may experience possible fatigue among many other signs. The infographic is aimed to help you prepare yourself physically and emotionally.
Whether you are a first-time expectant mom or not, the experience of a twin pregnancy will definitely be different for you. Although it does not necessarily mean double everything, you will undergo enhanced or increased symptoms. This infographic will apprise you of all these possible changes as well as give you a heads up and some tips and suggestions from day 1 to delivery.