Explaining My Hiatus
Alyssa here, emerging from the void of silence to give a little insight to what exactly has been going on in life that has kept me from continuing to post on my typical schedule. I’m just going to jump right in, starting from the beginning.
This fall, after a devastating loss earlier in the year, (you can read all about that here), we got news that a rainbow was on it’s way and we honestly couldn’t be more excited. But with the news and my pregnancy history, my husband and I understandably had reservations.
We had an early ultrasound, at 6 weeks, that determined that this embryo was in the right spot with a strong heartbeat; perfectly healthy. Great, but I was still aware of what a healthy pregnancy means for me specifically.
When most women get pregnant, they’re overjoyed and look forward to the months ahead with eagerness and excitement. They’ll grow cute baby bumps and look more radiant than ever. Around half or more of them will probably experience some nausea and a handful may even experience occasional vomiting, also known as morning sickness. But for 0.5 – 2% of pregnant women, this “morning sickness” becomes violent and yes, it can even be deadly.
As I am sure you’ve now gathered, I am in that small percentage, along with the royal Princess herself. The term for this vastly understudied pregnancy disease (yes, it’s actually a disease) that Princess Kate and I have in common is Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
Quick science lesson on the widely unknown illness:
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a term for the phenomenon in which a pregnant woman experiences a severe form of morning sickness that causes them to lose weight, often 5-10% or more of a woman’s pre-pregnancy weight. The causes of this rare pregnancy condition have evaded scientists and Doctors alike for a long time, however there is a recent study that has surfaced from the University of California that suggests “…that an excess of a blood-borne protein, growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), is a cause of HG…”. The study goes on to dub another protein, IGFBP7, a possible key mvp in the pregnancy disease due to its influence on placenta growth and appetite.
Lots of scientific babble, I know. Basically it boils down to two genetic proteins most-likely being the root cause of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. You can read the article that explains the Geneticists’ findings here.
So let me drift away from the textbook definition of this pregnancy plague and get a little more personal. Here are some things that cause me to violently throw up during pregnancy:
- Eating; food = no, almost never.
- Drinking; water, ginger ale, sodas, gatorade, ANYTHING, body just cannot tolerate it.
- Not eating; empty stomach = even emptier stomach.
- Laughing too much; shakes insides.
- Crying, at all; over-produces mucus which = no good.
- Smelling; literally anything. Good food, bad food, diapers, a mowed lawn, gas, candles, perfume, nothing.
- Staring at a phone/tv/computer; gave me motion sickness after 5 minutes.
- Playing with my kids; movement = vomiting.
- Talking; not sure why, makes me nauseous the more I speak.
- Reading to my kids; see talking.
- Getting too hot; stuffy, warm, stale air, over heating, all no good.
- Getting too cold; uncontrollable shaking and chattering, stirs the nausea pot.
- Cooking; see smelling.
- Wash Dishes; see smelling.
- Driving; = motion sickness & too hot or too cold, plus lugging kids in and out of car seats.
- Socializing; see talking.
- Constipation; (a common side effect of many anti-nausea meds) bloating makes me VERY nauseous.
- Have a BM; after being constipated by my meds for so long, this becomes extremely painful and pain makes me nauseous.
- Cleaning toys and house; bending down and up, moving around in general, it is all just a perfect recipe for an HG disaster.
- Brushing my teeth; if I ever get past the fragrant smell of the toothpaste, as soon as the brush is in my mouth, it triggers my currently overly sensitive gag reflex.
- Thinking of food; welcome to HG PTSD (this is a real thing women suffer from even after the disease had ceased after pregnancy.)
- Listing things that make me sick; just found that one out, something about reliving it all…
This is just a short list that is experienced across the board in women who suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum. The weightloss that accompanies it is due to throwing up anywhere from 3-60 times a day. As a woman who has experienced Hyperemesis Gravidarum in every successful pregnancy I’ve had, nothing stays down, including the typical morning sickness cures like ginger or medicines like Diclegis. In fact, there is no anti nausea medication that prevents the vomiting caused by HG all together, however there are a few on the market that are known to help ease up the symptoms. For me, Zofran (ondansetron) was a major help in decreasing the severity of the illness, although it is known to cause constipation, especially in pregnant women. Another one that really helped me was Phenergan (promethazine), however it is also sedating, so although it was my first choice for my first pregnancy, it was not ideal for my latest pregnancy when I had two other toddlers running around who needed to be taken care of (as much as I can do for them at the moment.)
Something that was frustrating to me was being the only person I knew who had this during pregnancy, so I had no one to relate to. It was also hard to take the advice from others who kept insisting I try real ginger products or those who SWEAR by the Seabands they used for their morning sickness. Believe me, I’ve already tried ALL the nausea basics, and then some. It’s not their fault though, a lot of people simply don’t know how bad HG truly is, let alone that it even exists.
As a matter of fact, it’s not uncommon for a pregnant woman suffering from this rare illness to be written off, dubbed mentally ill, or even branded with an “eating disorder” by their Obstetric healthcare professionals who have never experienced the illness and do not know or deny the existence of this very real condition. Women who find themselves in this situation should seek a new provider ASAP. Luckily my doctor was educated on the matter and actually diagnosed me in my first pregnancy.
During my first pregnancy, I lost 20 pounds in the first 18 weeks, and 10 pounds during my second pregnancy overall. This go round, I am only 11 weeks along and have already lost 18 pounds. For most suffering from Hyperemesis, it lasts throughout the pregnancy, unlike typical morning sickness. Fortunately for me, mine has always gone away or lessened significantly around 18-20 weeks.
Something else I have found after having Hyperemesis Gravidarum twice already, is that whenever I get the flu now or any stomach bug, it’s a lot easier for me to toss my cookies, which isn’t exactly a fun bragging right to have. Throwing up so violently and so frequently can actually cause the deterioration of the esophagus due to the over exposure to gastric contents such as stomach acid. These gastric acids also cause dental problems and accelerates the corrosion of tooth enamel. And with all the vomiting and inability to eat/drink, it resulted in weekly hospital visits and stays, IV fluids, IV meds (when the oral ones don’t stay down.) My current pregnancy has also reflected this HG reality. It’s so hard to make time for anything, let alone muster up the energy.
So trying to tie all the information here together, I hope this explains my ongoing absence and sheds some light on this little-known pregnancy disease that a select few of us suffer from. I thank you for your continued patience regarding my blog and social media absence as I continue to barely “survive” this miraculous, trying, but oh-so-worth-it pregnancy.
All on the road to the rainbow, baby!
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