Thursday, May 27, 2010

Severe morning sickness

The term "morning sickness" is a real misnomer. True morning sickness can strike any time of day, or rather, often lasts all day and night. If you find yourself sick only upon waking, you may just need to eat a larger meal with more protein before bed to keep your stomach fuller while sleeping, or eat a small, easy snack any time you wake up during the night (like almonds, cheese, etc.).

I have had severe morning sickness with every single pregnancy except one. By severe, I mean non-stop nausea, and throwing up more than a dozen of times every day. It feels just like food poisoning, except that it lasts for months instead of hours or days. I figure that to date, I have spend almost 2 years of my life dealing with severe morning sickness. This condition is called "hyperemesis gravidarum", and trying to explain it someone who has never experienced it is hard if not impossible.

The nausea is all-encompassing. There is not one second any given day that I do not feel like I am going to throw up immediately, and many times, that is exactly what I am doing. There is a permanent taste in my mouth that is a disgusting mixture of vinegar and metal. I may think I am craving a certain food, go through the trouble of fixing it in hopes it will stay down, only to take one bite and realize it tastes like - vinegar and metal.

Then there are the insane amounts of mucous and saliva that my out-of-whack pregnancy hormones make me produce. This is another throwing up-trigger. Plus, throwing up when my throat is coated in mucous has the unpleasant side effect that I will for hours afterward taste and smell the stomach acid and vomit residues that inevitably stay behind. It does not cancel out the vinegar and metal taste, however.

Are you grossed out yet? I know I am. This has been my daily, hourly, every-second reality for the past six weeks, and there seems to be no relief in sight. In the past, I always got completely better by about 14 to 16 weeks pregnancy, and I am just past 12 weeks right now. It is hard to imagine I will ever in my life feel normal again, but that's what has always happened in the past, so I'm hopeful.

All my senses are on hyper-stimulation mode. If I smell or taste any food, if I hear a loud/sudden/rhythmic noise, if I see busy patterns/flashing/bright lights, or if anyone touches me, I get sicker. Some examples of everyday situations that put me over the edge include: getting ads in the paper for fast food/pizza, smelling any personal care products on other people (soap, shampoo, perfume), my kids chattering excitedly, changing dirty diapers, cooking any food, people suggesting or discussing various foods, not getting tons and tons of sleep (as in, 12 hours per 24 hour period), my husband or kids touching or trying to kiss me, going from lying down to sitting to standing, and vice versa, going to a grocery store and seeing food products, heat (and we are approaching 100 degrees every day here in Phoenix), showering (the heat and humidity are just too much), sudden screaming and crying, a door slamming, a busy pattern on a tie, talking on the phone, kids walking in and out through the back door repeatedly, the vibrations of the floor from rambunctious boys running around, and literally another 100 everyday situations. In a perfect world, I would never leave my bedroom, much less the house, but that is obviously not an option.

One major challenge has been that I cannot under any circumstances drink more than 3 sips of fluids at any given time. Yesterday morning, I took Solomon to a music lesson and afterward drank a half cup of water in one sitting, just because I was so thirsty. I hardly made it back to the van before violently throwing up not only all the water, but also my breakfast. Yes, I keep a trash can in the van for occasions such as this, which occur pretty much on any given day that I leave the house. Of course, such limited fluid intake will quickly lead to dehydration, which further aggravates the morning sickness. I have tried to stay ahead of that by taking many small sips, but even at that, I am probably getting no more than 2 cups of water in per day right now. When I am not pregnant, 12 cups per day is nothing for me. I have tried to offset this by eating lots of melons and grapes, something I am always craving when pregnant. I also try to eat lots of soups. I tend to get kidney infections easily when I am pregnant, and drinking so little does nothing to help avert those.

Severe nausea like this has been compared by those who have experience both to the nausea typically associated with chemo therapy. I am glad that I am sick because me and baby are healthy, and not because I am battling for my life. Still, such nausea has repercussions on every area of life, physical, emotional, financial, and otherwise.

Physical, because my throat feels like someone took a knife to the inside of it, a result of all the stomach acid going where it was never meant to. I'm sure I'll need a couple more fillings in my teeth when all is said and done. Emotional, because this is the hardest, most discouraging, and most depressing thing I ever go through in life. Which, honestly, isn't that bad compared to much worse things I could be going through that others face, so I'm not complaining here. Financial, because I spend much more than I usually would on food and other convenience items such as paper plates and cups. Not only does most of what I eat end up in the toilet, only for me to have to consume yet another meal, but I can usually also only tolerate to eat everything once. If I throw it up, I can never ever eat it again, so there is a constant need to get new foods I am craving (the only hope of it staying down). Plus, I neither have time to cook nor shop the sales right now.

There are many mornings when I wake up, and cry because I cannot possibly face another day of sickness and being completely out of commission. Then the kids wake up and excitedly climb onto my bed, the jiggling from which makes my stomach turn right there and then. From then on, the day becomes one giant act of trying to maintain as normal a life as possible. Thankfully, the older kids are very understanding, and when the girls take their nap they will play or read silently while I also lie down. Tonight, Solomon hung and folded a couple of loads of laundry for me, and straightened up my bedroom. Isaac has been very good about taking care of the dog and the other outside chores, such as watering our vegetables. John is great about playing with the girls and keeping them busy if I have to lie down unexpectedly, and he also writes me the sweetest and most encouraging notes.

I know this post must sound like one big giant whine, but the nausea is a small price to pay for the wonderful blessing that children are. I am hoping that someone else who suffers from debilitating morning sickness may feel encouraged that they are not the only ones going through this, that it is worth it, and that it will end.

I have blogged before on dealing with severe morning sickness. Today, I also happened across a blog called The Whining Puker, that has some great info, encouragement, and links on this topic.

In the end, I just try to focus on keeping a positive attitude. Cuddling my little girls reminds me of why it is that I am feeling sick - I am growing another human being at breakneck speed.

I am also very grateful for how caring, understanding, and helpful the boys are. My husband has been very understanding, encouraging, and helpful during this time, as he always is. Several ladies from church have come over pretty much every week to help me with the chores that I simply cannot keep up with these days. I do tend to feel slightly better in the evenings after the kids are in bed and things quiet down, which gives me a chance to catch up on a couple of critical chores and make myself a large meal before bed.

This, too, shall pass. If you are so inclined, please pray for me to get over this very, very soon.


  1. I will definately pray for you to get well, I cannot imagine how you are feeling as I have never been pregnant.
    Some of my friends who suffered terribly said that ginger helped ease the morning sickness a bit. Here in South Africa we have a herbal tea which is honey and ginger - have you tried ginger?
    Wishing you great health soon.
    Love to all

  2. Zsuzsanna, I have read an article about using progesterone cream to counteract the hyperemesis gravidarum. Have you ever looked into it? My aunt goes through this with her pregnancies. She actually has to have an IV for the first 3 months. I hope you feel better soon.

  3. I am right there with you as I just found out I am pregnant. Pray, pray, pray. Praying is the only thing getting me thru. I start getting morning (ALL DAY LONG and WAKE ME UP in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT) sickness 4 days after conception, not in the 4th or 5th week like most other woman. I just happen to be super sensitive to the hormones.

    I have a 8 month old and a 2 year old but also my helpers, 3 others (5, 8, 10). When I first suspected I was pregnant, it was sheer PANIC--how could I take care of my family when I was so sick. The last pregnancy, I was in bed most the time, couldn't breath very well, had absolutely no energy, and was throwing up 2-3 times a day, every day, for 9 months. Ugh.

    But the Lord has softened my heart and eased my fears. He is showing me I can get thru and not to worry.

    People have always asked me how I can homeschool and take care of little ones. All I can say is, "Thank God for homeschooling" as I have the older kids home to help with the younger ones. With every pregnancy, the older kids become more and more independent. I am so proud of them and they are learning skills that they will need when they are out on their own or raising their families.

    To temper the morning sickness, I've been using the over-the-counter Meclizine (for motion sickness) that my midwife says is safe during pregnancy. This takes the edge off when it's at it's worse. I also "graze". I don't eat meals, just bites of this and that and this so that I always have something in my stomach. And when I throw up, it's not a lot.

    For hydration, have you ever tried Emergen-C packets. My midwife also recommend these, not more than 1-2 a day, so the recommended amount of C is not exceeded, but it helps replace electrolytes and also helps with leg cramps. I get cramps in my hand as well, these really help those.

    Praying for you, and glad you linked that, I'll have to check that out.

  4. I hope you start to feel better soon!

  5. I hope you start feeling better , with my first daughter the morning sickness was terrible . I can remeber it til this day , I had eat mcdonalds french fries and when i threw up , they came up dry no liquid at all . I thought i was going to choke to death . With my second daughter I only threw up a few times , I don't understand it . I've been praying that God will bless me with another child , please pray for me also , I will pray that you start feeling better soon .

  6. I am so sorry Zsuzsa. That is so icky!!! I have experienced everything you described but only in my molar pregnancy. Now, I would be interested to know if you have really high HCG levels because in a molar pregnancy they are off the charts high and I am wondering if for some reason you have unusually high levels? THat is why I felt so deathly ill with the molar because those levels. I know how you feel like there is no end in sight as it becomes normal to you. THere is. Hang in there!!! How long do you have this? I know one woman who does the whole 9 mo. I sure hope this is not your case. Take care, rest, pray.


  7. I had "all day" sickness with both my pregnancies - and a terrible sour taste to my mouth with the 1st, so I sympathise completely. I'm praying for it to ease up SOON! And always feeling tired is no fun, either.

    I don't want to offer suggestions because you indicated that foods people have suggested can trigger you.

    From your last post, however, you asked for Q and A... I wondered, since your church seems to be multi-cultural, how you feel about interracial marriage?


  8. I'm really sorry you're going through this!! It's no fun at all :(

    I'm not pregnant, nor have I ever been, but sometimes, I will wake up in the morning with a bad headache and nausea, and I've always wondered why.

  9. Poor thing. I don't comment much but my heart goes out to you. That is so great to hear that at least your boys and husband are *trying* to understand. I have only been pregnant 3 times and haven't suffered like you have so I can't say I know what it's like but I will pray for you. Hang in there.

    Katie Drinkard

  10. I was sick this way with one of my pregnancies, and it kicked off severe gastric reflux, so am now on a double dose of Prilosec. I took it with my last pregnancy, and had virtually no sickness and no heartburn at all. I don't know if that was why, but it was nice. The sick pregnancy had me throwing up from the smell of water, just like you described. It was awful.

    One tip I got from a nurse that sounds absolutely insane, but worked: Baked Cheetos. (I bought the organic ones.) Sounds gross, but when the first bite hit my tongue, the feeling of wanting to upchuck disappeared. Well, at least as long as I was eating them. But when you can keep something down, you don't care how weird the remedy is, right? I would munch on them slowly, whenever possible, and it helped me a lot.

    Hope that helps!

  11. Hi, I'm praying for you. I know how helpless you feel. People think just because you have "a lot" of kids pregnancy is easy. But it really is a labor of love. I had intense morning sickness with my first pregnancy that lasted all 9 months. I through up so much I popped blood vessles in my face, so I looked like I had acne/rosacea. I admire your courge, because it does take courage to continue to be fruitful admist the hardships, and the world issn't very encourgaing. I've noticed you get no sympathy past 3 children. People's attitude is "you did it to yourself". I pray you get encouragement from your blogging friends.
    To take the edge off of the "morning sickness" I lie down with a cotton swab drenched in rubbing alcohol on my forehead or near the bridge of my nose. It isn't directly inhaling but it takes the edge off. A nurse did this to me when I was in the hospital and people think I'm nuts when i tell them. But when you're desperate you're desperate! I wouldn't do it 10 hours a day, but a gentle wafting takes the edge off. Forgive me If I sound like a druggie, really I'm not. :-) I pray you feel better.

  12. I thought my morning sickness was aweful but you sure have me beat! I threw up all day and night. Same thing with the smell of anything. I thought I had tonsilitis once because my throat burned so bad. It was just from the throwing up but she put me on prilosec (you can get it over the counter but she put me on a higher dose)to stop the acid 'burn' so to speak. I don't know how I would have gotten through without that medication. I hope you find something to help you but I know you don't like taking medications. I'm praying for you!

  13. Why is God making you go through that? It sounds horrible.

  14. You have all my sympathy! I was exactly the same and the all day sickness carried on until I was 7months.

    What killed me was that I could not fool my body for a second; I would wake in the night for a bathroom visit (another joy!!) and the moment my eyes opened the overwhelming nausea took over!!

    I was the exact opposit with liquids though, I fantasised about water; I drank litres and litres every day (often making myself ill with the consumption) but the thirst would just not go away. I swam my way through my pregnancy, during the winter months, in the heated pool at the gym and in summer in the municipal pool. That was the only time I did not feel ill. As a result of this, I spent hours and hours in the bath and a lot of money on hot water!! I made my husband find places where we could camp with hot springs and mineral pools. It was an absolute obsession. There is no explaining this to the uninitiated as it is just too all consuming for words. What did help for me was hand massages as this seemed to relieve the symtoms a little. Starch is the only way, potatoes, rice and plain pasta.

    I really hope you begin to feel well soon. No woman should have to suffer like this during such a joyful time of preperation.

    Much love, Sandy

  15. I had no idea that "morning" sickness was that bad. I remember my mother talking about it, but I don't think she suffered like you. My mother took Shaklee vitamins, and that helped.

  16. Does Zofran or Diclectin not work at all for you? Have you tried it or are you opposed to taking medications such as these? I had a friend who had nausea such as yours, and she had good success with acupuncture. I hope this awful stage does not last long. Take care.

  17. Hey, I'm the "HG Mama" she mentions in one of her most recent posts. I've written about HG a bit at my blog, too. Most recently here

    I won't give you any "tips" for helping the nausea, because I know nothing helps.

    I've had HG just 3 times now, so I'm "glad" (strange to use that word in this context!) to read you've had, and survived, it even more than me.

    I'm currently facing the possibility of another HG pregnancy.


  18. One way I choose food when I'm pregnant is by asking myself, "what's the least nasty coming back up?" ha ha :)

  19. I am so sorry that you have such a hard bout of morning sickness. I always have a severe case, too. I only vomit a few times a day, but feel that severe nausea all day and night. Praying that this phase will end soon, dear friend!


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