How Hyperemesis Disrupted My Pregnancy
Kate Middleton’s rare condition can make pregnancy a less-than-joyful time
I’m not what you would call a fan of the whole royal family thing. I don’t care what President Barack Obama said during his Diamond Jubilee toast to the Queen, didn’t wake up before dawn to watch Prince William lose his bachelor status, and didn’t jump for joy when Kate Middleton confirmed that she was indeed pregnant.
I did, however, send up a special prayer when I heard that Kate was in the hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum. It’s a little known condition that is suddenly all over the news, now that it has invaded the royal family.
But I know it well. Early one morning in 2010, my hubby and I found out we were pregnant after just two months of trying. We were hype; we couldn’t call our parents and closest friends quickly enough to tell them the news. But just two weeks later, joy was the last thing on my mind. It was a Sunday night, and I knew something was wrong when it literally took me an hour to change the sheets on our bed. I had to lie down every time I tucked a corner. By the next morning, the toilet and I were having a torrid affair. As I sat on the floor, draped around the bowl, a huge part of me was glad that I had recently cleaned it.
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It was my first baby, so I figured it was just the onset of morning sickness. But as the week went on, I realized this was something more. My mommy friends all had advice, and I took it all, sipping peppermint and homemade ginger teas, tippling on warm ginger ale, nibbling the corners off saltine crackers, even hunting down motion sickness bracelets for each wrist. Nothing worked. I was spending more and more time on the bathroom floor. By Saturday, I could do nothing but lie in bed, curtains drawn, television off, door closed tight to block out the smells of the kitchen, praying for the relief of sleep. I only got up to crawl to visit my new lover, the toilet. When it became clear that I could no longer keep down water—the only thing that was sustaining me at that point—my husband carried me to the car and drove, very carefully, to the emergency room.
As I lay in fetal position, freezing beneath three blankets fresh from the warmer, I was worried. I just knew that the ER doctor, used to heart attacks and broken limbs, would dismiss me as a skittish first-time mom, overreacting to typical morning sickness. But I was blessed. He listened to my symptoms, looked at my ashen skin and sunken features, and diagnosed me on the spot. He gave me a couple bags of saline, then popped an anti-nausea medicine called Zofran under my tongue, where it would enter my bloodstream quickly. A couple hours later I was back at home, rehydrated, with a pill bottle full of Zofran on my nightstand.
As soon as I could sit up, I Googled those strange words, “hyperemesis gravidarum.” I quickly learned that it’s rare, only affecting 0.5 to 2 percent of all pregnancies, and is defined as “unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids,” that typically causes a weight loss of at least 5 percent (check), dehydration (check), nutritional deficiencies (check), and difficulty with daily activities (check). Experts think it’s caused by HCG, the hormone that causes the little stick to change color when you’re preggers.
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But it wasn’t over. The medication enabled me to sit up and limited my vomiting to just a couple times a day, but it made me groggy and slowed my movement to a turtle’s pace. An adjusted dosage allowed me to work, but it was still rough going. Occasionally I’d feel good enough that I would forget to take it before rolling out of bed, but I’d pay for it an hour later, crying, reunited with the toilet, my body mocking me for daring to think I was having a “normal” pregnancy and my baby girl kicking in protest. I took the medication until the day I delivered my daughter.
Along the way, I discovered that my mother had suffered from it during all three of her pregnancies. Not surprising, since there is evidence that hyperemesis is genetic. Yay. That also means that I will likely experience it with every pregnancy. But the great news is that we know about it now, so the Zofran will be on my nightstand from the beginning, in hopes of catching it before it becomes debilitating.
Who knew that I would one day have something in common with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge?
What was your pregnancy experience? Tell us in the comments.