Pregnancy. It’s a time for feeling the miraculous movements of a baby growing as your belly expands. But for some women, what they feel is anything but miraculous.
Up to 90% of pregnant women experience nausea. Nearly 50% of women cope with vomiting as well. Called morning sickness, this generally goes away by the end of the first trimester.
But some women, like Amy, experience gastrointestinal problems that are far more serious – for them and their developing baby. Hyperemisis gravidarum – the most severe form of nausea and vomiting – can result in dehydration and weight loss.
“I threw up from the day that my body knew I was pregnant, and then every day for the next 27 weeks,” said Amy.
When Amy was pregnant with her now five-year-old daughter, Emily, she and her husband were very excited. But that excitement soon turned to worry and exhaustion. No sooner did she found out that she was pregnant, she started to vomit. At first she thought she had the flu. But when the vomiting continued, she went to see her obstetrician.
“He put me on a few different medications, but none of them worked. I just kept throwing up. Then I went to Women & Infants’ ER, and this nice doctor came in and said to me, ‘You have a condition called hyperemesis.’ And my first question was, ‘Is my baby going to be okay?’ He told me yes, treated me for dehydration, and put me on some new medications. But the next day, I was back in the ER, and the day after that, too.
“That’s when they said that it was time to bring in a specialist. And that’s when I went to the Center for Women's Gastrointestinal Health," said Amy. “I can’t tell you how wonderful she is! Every week I would go to see them and also Donna DiCiccio, the nutritionist, who would go over everything I ate. And I would have home IV therapy, too.”
Amy’s learned a lot about how to cope with her hyperemesis. “I have to eat every two hours, that’s how I master this. I can’t let myself be hungry or thirsty. And I’ve learned that I have to eat something before I can drink something. I have this routine. I wake up, I throw up, I go to the kitchen to eat a bagel, I wait, then I have something to drink. It works for me!”
After 27 weeks, Amy’s vomiting finally subsided. She stopped the IV therapy and was able to eat, though she continued to take her oral medications. And at 36 weeks, she delivered a beautiful 7 pound, 2 ounce baby girl.
Today, Amy is 22 weeks pregnant with their second child – again, a daughter (research has shown that more women suffer from hyperemesis when pregnant with girls). And she’s throwing up again. Not expecting to be pregnant, she again thought she had the flu. But when she realized that she was, indeed, pregnant, she took action immediately. “At six weeks I called the doctor and started with my medications and IV therapy right away.”
This pregnancy is a little harder, Amy admits. “Now I throw up, but I still have to take care of my daughter, the dog, my house. I can’t just focus on me. You never really realize how much your life affects others until you’re going through something like this.”
But Amy’s got a fantastic attitude. “Other people ask how I do it, and what can I say? I’m going to have a baby! I may feel sick, but I’m still happy.”
She summed it quite simply. “Someone from the IV company that comes to my house asked how I can be so positive. You know, they see patients who have cancer and other life-threatening problems. Me? My condition will end after this pregnancy ends. And at the end of it, I’ll have a healthy, beautiful baby. I have something wonderful to look forward to.”