The other side of pregnancy

Most people never knew that for the first seven months of my pregnancy I was fighting to keep myself and my child alive. Here is my tale

The sickness flooded my body in stomach-cramping waves, leaving me curled in a ball on the bathroom floor and forcing me to throw up anything I consumed. Soda crackers. Prenatal vitamins. Water.
For seven months, I was forced to make near weekly trips to the emergency room, where doctors used an IV and stomach pump to deliver fluids, nutrients and eventually Zofran, the same medication chemotherapy patients use to quell nausea.
Halfway through my pregnancy, I barely had a baby bump. And you can forget those pregnancy fantasies about satisfying cravings with ice cream.
Why? Because I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (or HG), a rare pregnancy disorder that causes debilitating nausea.
For many women, the disease can be life altering, requiring them to take extended sick leaves or quit work and rely heavily on loved ones to carry the household load while bedridden. Some women lose their teeth or have permanent esophageal damage from the repeated vomiting. Others find their babies are struggling to thrive inside a mother deprived of nutrients. (In utero, my own child lagged in development for months, in part, because I wasn’t able to keep down food.)
Even worse, some women such as Amanda Tynes, the wife of NFL player Lawrence Tynes, have such severe HG, they’re told they need to choose between aborting their babies or dying while they try to carry their child to term.
Tynes was slated to appear before Congress this week to discuss the disease as part of the first annual Hyperemesis Gravidarum World Awareness Day. Advocacy groups representing women who have the disease are pressing lawmakers to help allocate federal funding to discover a cause and a cure. In the meantime, the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation, is spearheading efforts to educate physicians about the disorder so that women can receive proper care.
I was my OB/GYN’s first case of severe hyperemesis gravidarum and the two of us learned together about how to best treat the disease.
We went from brainstorms about grinding up prenatal vitamins into a powder and mixing them into juice (nope, didn’t stay down) and farfetched theories about gallstones before we finally arrived at an answer.
According to Vanessa Pack, founder of the Ayden Rae Foundation, a support group for women suffering from HG, the disease doesn’t discriminate.
“It destroys lives and families everywhere,” says Pack, who has seen firsthand how the pressure to care for a spouse who is ill with a disease some doctors think is “all in her head” has torn families apart.
The disease strikes roughly two percent of pregnant women, according to the American Journal of Perinatology. While the cause is unknown, researchers believe there may be a link between the rapid increase in pregnancy hormones during the first trimester and the way some women’s bodies react to those changes.
Interestingly, the disease has also been around for ages. Author Charlotte Bronte is thought to have died from it after a four-month bout of extreme nausea that left her dehydrated and emaciated.
It’s also a disease that appears to be hereditary. If a woman’s mother or sister has had HG, she has a higher chance of developing the disorder.
For the “lucky” women like myself who can afford the expensive treatment (or whose insurance will pay for it), companies such as Alere (formerly known as Matria) provide home health aides, IV hydration, daily phone calls from nurses, nutritional counseling and a Zofran stomach pump which administers the nausea stemming medicine throughout the day through a small needle inserted into the stomach.
I often wore one of these under my maternity clothes while navigating Capitol Hill as a reporter. Aside from the occasional beeping from the stomach pump — an alarm signaling it was running low on meds or had a tangled cord — none of my colleagues were any wiser. (I usually blamed the beeping on television equipment.)
But there is no clever trick around this fact: If a woman has had HG in a previous pregnancy, there is a higher likelihood that she’ll develop the disease in future pregnancies.
A year and a half after delivering a healthy baby girl, I’m wiser about exactly what our dream of expanding our family may mean.
We’re in the process of updating paperwork in the long quest for our social services adoption — a journey unto itself. And we’ve also started the IVF process to help us overcome infertility and get pregnant.
And I’ve made sure to eat a few extra scoops of ice cream, just in case.

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About domesticpolichick

My life is a crazy jumble of sitcom-level domestic hijinks and fast-paced political reporting in the nation's capital. Breastfeeding while doing a phone interview with a senator...yep, I've done it and no, I won't reveal the name. Toddler calling a member of Congress on the cell..yeah, that really did happen. Pregnant in high heels on Capitol Hill trying to chase down a particularly grumpy senator, yeah...that was nuts. But what can I say? I'm just one domestic polichick trying to figure out the work-life balance.
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2 Responses to The other side of pregnancy

  1. Amanda Gray says:

    i had hyperemesis through both of my pregnancies my insurance medicaid health of mi now called meridian wouldn’t cover my medication zofran until my doctor tried everything else first that included ginger ale, taking a bath, eating saltines, eating ice chunks etc just to keep me having something in my stomach i would throw up at least 6 plus times a day no matter what id eat Popsicle just water tea etc.. nothing would stay down my babies were fine both times they were getting what they needed from me my doctor told me and my husband we didnt need to worry about that but myself was getting weaker and losing weight like crazy i ended up needing to go to the hospital everyday for iv treatments at the birth center they would give me vitamins antinausa medication and fluids i had become severely dehydrated it was terrifying i was told by older women that i shouldn’t be pregnant i was subjecting my poor baby to all sorts of unneeded medicines don’t i care etc i cried so many times for that one eventually hey proscribed me at home care at home ivs and at home shots of promethazine every 4-6 hours i had to have a shot there was a 5 day period where i had a n iv bag attached to me all day and all night with vitamins and zofran in it id lost so much weight and fluids from being sick all the time that they had to do this no choice nothing else was working after the 5 day period and the shots everyday several times a day it worked i started keeping food down and liquids so through the duration of the first pregnancy all the way to the time i went into labor i had those shots that burned the skin and would hurt so bad but it was worth being alive and worth a healthy full term baby she was actual a week late and born perfect no defects or anything shes currently in 1st grade and ahead of her class testing a grade over her actual grade my second child was like this too i know it sounds crazy that wed do this again but my clock was ticking away and its natural to want at least one of child to love and care for just because i had a hard time the first time doesn’t mean i should have at least one more anyway i ended up having to go through the same things as the first pregnancy even though my drs knew promethazine was the only thing that worked i actually was going in the same as i was the first time everyday for iv treatments my insurance wouldn’t cover the zofran or promethazine we had to prove that nothing else worked first again the bay was perfect getting all she needed but myself was going through pain sickness nausea feeling weak feeling like death was approaching i was scared i would die before too long but they finally approved the promethazine before the hyperemesis continued anymore they ended just providing us with apria home care again they drop off boxes of equipment taught me and my husband how to administer the shots of promethazine how to filter the medication using the filter tips then changing the tip to the shot one and how to give the shot in the correct area so it didn’t eat its way out of my skin it had to go into the muscle tissue or it would burn more than it already did apparently i had the most severe hyperemesis my hospital had every seen. eventually we had to schedule for a time i could come in to induce labor she was 2 weeks late and i was induced for the entire week before she was finally born healthy happy however we soon discovered through the moth after her birth and after several procedures i had something called placenta incretia too and when she was bron the placenta tore and then the remaining was infected and causing inturnal bleeding for several weeks before the dr i had finally oked me to come in for an emergency ultrasound they discovered all the above but also i had clots the size of grape fruits and hats why i appeared bloated they then scheduled me for an emergency hysterectomy and now i cannot have anymore children i am very happy with the 2 beautiful girls i have they are a wonderful thing me and my husband created with help from god i survived through so many health issues to bring them safely into the world i do regret any moment of it id tell women who have hyperemesis it may seem like it will never end but it will and the worst thing you can do is feel negatively about your pregnancy and want it to end and try to think about what your bringing into the world and how what you are going through shows how much you love your baby and just keep in contact with your dr and if you feel like your life may be in trouble or your health is declining go to er right away im glad i did because that’s what meant the difference between passing out from dehydration and getting the care i needed.

    • I am so sorry you went through that. The disease is truly devastating. Hopefully researchers will get closer to finding a cure one day soon so other women don’t suffer as we did. All the best.

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