Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum


As I reach the very end of this pregnancy (due date been and gone) my body and brain have cleverly erased all memories of what early pregnancy was like. The truth is the first 15 or so weeks of this pregnancy were far worse than with my previous two. Perhaps because I was carrying a girl this time?

One thing that kept me sane during those months was reading and rereading Susie Verrills brilliant blog post on Hyperemesis Gravidarum. By far the most honest and revealing account of what its like to suffer with something WAY beyond morning sickness. I used Susie’s words as a stark reminder that although I felt shit, their were many people out there in a far far worse place. Struggling on in the face of real adversity.

Since then I have been meaning to help raise more awareness of HG and am really grateful to Gemma for sharing her story.


  • On 19 January 2015 I was beyond ecstatic to learn that I was pregnant. We had been married for 4 months and couldn’t wait to have little mini versions of ourselves running around, so we were completely struck with joy and excitement when we realized we were really doing just that.

  • The vomiting started on 2nd of February. The last time I was sick was on the 23rd of September, and little Florence was born on the 24th, a whole day early.

  • I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) – extreme sickness in pregnancy that Google tells me can result in nausea, weight loss and dehydration. That really isn’t the half of it. In writing this list I’ve done my best to explain what it is to live with HG, and offer some strategies that may help anyone struggling to live with it.

  • Educate. If you have ever suffered from HG you will already be overfamiliar with how it ravages your body, corrodes your spirit and robs you of the joy of being pregnant.

  • Of course, and I’d hope that it would be assumed, I was beyond happy to have conceived and reminded myself daily how lucky I was to have done so. But, and for those who have never witnessed HG with their own eyes, allow me a moment to have a really good moan (I really earned it) – it was really bloody awful. REALLY BLOODY AWFUL.

  • Imagine the first few hours of the worst hangover you have ever had. But worse.

  • Smells made me ill, sometimes smells that weren’t even there.

  • I had burnt the back of my throat with stomach acid. I

  • had friction burns on my elbows from propping myself up 20+ times a day just enough to be sick in a basin.

  • I couldn’t keep down even the tiniest sips of water.

  • I lost a stone and a half.

  • Walking to the bathroom felt like I’d completed a 20-mile run.

  • And I was trying to smile through it all- I was expected to smile through it all.

  • And I couldn’t leave my bed- do not underestimate how isolating this can be.

  • This, and so much more I’ve blocked from my memory, is what HG is. For me, it lasted 9 full months.

  • As awful as it was, I know of others who have had it much worse. For me, it did become more manageable with medication, and subsided briefly around 25 weeks, but returned 4 weeks later.

  • HG is not morning sickness, and without wanting to undermine anyone’s experience with morning sickness, the difference between the two must be better understood.

  • If you know, you know. Yes, it is more than morning sickness. It’s more than that “all day sickness” women report to be suffering from. Because this was my first pregnancy, I had no benchmark for “normality”- like how do you know when it is beyond what is expected during pregnancy? Well, after two weeks of constant vomiting and realising my wedding ring kept slipping off my finger I knew something was really not right.

  • But after seeing a doctor I was sent on my way with a two-week sickline and a look of vague sympathy that felt more like a prescription to “suck it up and get on with it”. But with Google as my only medical qualification I meekly headed back to my sick bed.

  • It was only after my sister, the less dramatic of my siblings, told me I looked like I was dying that I knew something had to change. I was admitted to hospital within a few hours and where I remained for 3 days. After a super-strength IV concoction of vitamins and 6 litres of fluids I felt like a new woman. Briefly.

  • Fight for medication if you need to. When I got home from hospital I felt amazing. I could finally focus on getting excited about being pregnant. For 8 hours.

  • Then I threw up my antiemetic (anti-sickness drug)  and it spiralled very quickly. 24 hours later I was back in hospital with my soon to be BFF the saline drip hooked up to my arm. It’s amazing the difference hydration and a few (medically administered) jabs in the butt can make. But I had been lured into this false sense of wellbeing before and knew without additional medication it wouldn’t be too long until I was back. I cried when the midwife was discharging me, and begged her to give me something else to help me stay on top of the sickness, and eventually she got the Doc to give me a second antiemetic (which at the risk of sounding melodramatic, I believe totally saved my life).

  • Battle One was mine.

  • Battle Two was a little more difficult. Convincing my GP to continue to prescribe this miracle drug on the outside. BUT despite having never given this drug to a pregnant woman before (reserved only for chemo patients apparently), I persuaded him that my life and my sanity depended on it and left with the script desperately tucked into my bag.

  • I collected that prescription every 10 days until I gave birth, and soon learnt that even a day without it would end with a sleepover in the antenatal ward.

  • So, you know you. You know how bad things will get without intervention – don’t be afraid to fight for it.

  • Stay on top of staying on top. At the time, I refused to take ownership of the thoughts that ran through my mind and suffocated my happiness and my hope at my lowest point.

  • I have never been so conflicted in my life.

  • This was a planned and already very loved baby, but in the darkness of those first few weeks I have to admit that if I had been offered an “out” I might have taken it.

  • The guilt that comes with even a flicker of acknowledgement to these thoughts is crippling.

  • How dare I even think such an awful thing when I was so lucky to be living out my dream. Given, not in the way I’d always imagined (which, for the record, was looking like Blake Lively when she was pregnant- Dream Big, my friends) but I know the heartbreak of those who aren’t so lucky, and I could never look them in the eye and confess to these selfish thoughts. But I was so weak and so beyond exhausted, and the sickness had entirely consumed me.

  • I honestly couldn’t see how I was going to make it out the other side of this darkness and I was so deeply ashamed. I felt so alone. I felt like a total failure- how can you even be bad at being pregnant? It’s biologically what we were made for, and there I was, barely making it through the days.

  • I was so angry. Why me? I couldn’t understand why coping with being pregnant was so beyond my capabilities, I’d always imagined popping out lots of babies and now I wasn’t sure I could even pop out the one. I was resentful of anyone else who was pregnant who seemed to be breezing through, and Lord save anyone who dared to complain to me that they too “suffered with morning sickness in the beginning”, before blossoming into this gorgeous glowing pregnant Goddess I could see in front of me. I was 16 weeks in, I was not glowing. I was not radiant. I was not excited. I was not happy. But I had to be everytime anyone asked how I was feeling.

  • I felt like I’d become such a burden on my wonderfully supportive and understanding family and even I was sick of hearing myself say “I feel sick”.

  • Looking back, I think this was because I didn’t have a space where I could have my thoughts and feelings understood. More than understood- validated. Taken seriously. Not that my family didn’t do these things – they did, and they did them with compassion and such love and support, but I still felt frustrated,  alone and misunderstood.

  • Find someone who really Gets It. Talk about it. After I had Florence, I found friends who had been suffering too, but who also got caught up in the ideals of what’s expected of you when you’re expecting.

  • Do not be ashamed. You are doing well if you even make it out of bed in the morning. Allow yourself to feel like crap, but commit to getting back on the saddle after a little wallow.

  • Even in the wake of giving birth my experience still haunted me. I was certainly traumatised by it. I thought about how selfish it would be of me not to give her a sibling based on the possibility of having to go through that again. Yes- she was worth every single ounce of vomit and every needle in the bum, but how could I ever risk feeling like that again – with a toddler in tow?! I couldn’t look after myself for months, never mind parent.

  • Around 1000 women a year chose to terminate their pregnancies due to the extreme effects of HG, so this really needs to be taken very seriously and treatments standardized and effected without struggle.

  • Take your recovery seriously. Three weeks off work and I was feeling The Guilt. After being completely devoid of the ability to function beyond vomiting into a bowl, I returned to work.

  • Even with all my medication, I was still unable to leave the house without my trusty Golden Cow butter tub which my dad, in a moment of true Ferguson genius, supplied as a sick catcher. It was perfect – big enough to hold even the biggest of vomiting episodes, and it had a lid. If you’ve ever had to throw up in a car, you will appreciate how important this was. I drove about for months, working with my new fav accessory never far from reach. WHY. WHY DID I FEEL I NEEDED TO GO TO WORK? I was very ill. If you’re vomiting so often that you can’t be without a portable sick bowl, you’re probably too sick to be at work. But I felt I had to be. I wasn’t sick-sick, I was just pregnant-sick. And I made myself worse by insisting I had to be there.

  • Slow down- you are not an emergency service. People will cope without you, if ever there was a time you needed to rest, it is now. Work can wait. Don’t be motivated by guilt.

  • Live the cliché. Round up the troops. It takes a village. Call for back up. You won’t get through HG without an entire team of supporters behind you. Use them and let them in. Cooking, cleaning, shopping, babysitting- delegate. Allow yourself the time and space to rest and recover, or at least to get on top of the symptoms.

  • Have a Gingernut. LOLZ. Seriously – I didn’t realise the world was full of so many gingernut enthusiasts until I was pregnant. I’ve just thrown up an ice cube that took me 15 minutes to eat- but please- pass me the gingernuts! With all the best intentions in the world, people are genuinely shocked that you haven’t been eating one every few minutes if you’ve been feeling sick. It’s such an obvious choice of treatment!

  • WELL. I’ll tell you now. I forced myself to eat ginger biscuits, ginger sweets and drank ginger ale, ginger beer and ginger tea, and I promise you that all it achieved was what I can only assume to be a lifelong aversion to ginger and a tenfold increase in already raging heartburn. If you have any friends who ever have the misfortune of suffering through HG, if you don’t want to lose them forever, do not mention the G word. Ever.

  • But seriously, eat what you can, when you can (which I guarantee will be the second most popular recommendation- “little and often”). You probably won’t fancy a kale smoothie, and be ok with that for a while. Eating two cheeseburgers in a row is better than eating a salad and puking it up. It’s not a permanent diet choice and you really don’t need the guilt of your food choices to add to your long list of things to worry about. Take a good pregnancy supplement if you can stomach it and eat what you can while the waves of non-nausea strike.

  • Reach out. Unfortunately for me, I discovered the readymade network of support that is the “Insta-mum” community after I had Florence. Since surrounding myself virtually with all these amazing women, I have heard so many re-assuring voices of HG survivors (Susie V, I’m looking at you!).

  • There’s something to be said for hearing someone else talk about the horrors of matted hair, overactive saliva glands and phantom smells that follow you everywhere and make you gag. It made me feel a million times better about what I had been through- I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t a total drama queen. In fact, I did a damn good job of getting through it.

  • Look for support locally, I’ve since discovered Pregnancy Sickness Support, a charity who strive to support and empower women going through or who have been through HG or severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Being heard and being validated will make such a difference, and might just pull you through your darkest days.

  • Plan a second pregnancy. But plan a second HG pregnancy- just in case. It’s not a case of falling into the trap of thinking negatively, it’s a case of being prepared.

  • With Florence, I was totally ignorant of what was in store for me. I’d do anything to be ignorant again. The chances of HG reoccurring in subsequent pregnancies are very high (70-80%), but planning and getting your health professionals on board will really help. Look into pre-emptive care and medication, studies have shown these to be successful in reducing severity and duration if HG does happen again.

  • I know fine well what I could be getting myself into if I was lucky enough to have another, and that is something I just cannot get too excited about. I have already said – she is absolutely worth every second, and for me, I think that will be my secret weapon.

  • I knew she would be worth it when I was pregnant- but now I know just HOW worth it it all was, I feel it will be less of a mental struggle the next time.

  • I also have the experience of what worked for me last time, and that will cut out a lot of vital ‘Trial and Error’ time, and I know where the line between ‘sick’ and needing medical attention lies, and will seek help as soon as that line is crossed.

  • I know that it will end. And I know I would do it a million times over to have another baby.

  • Waiting won’t reduce the chances of it happening, for me, it’s just about getting to the stage where I am ready to cope with that again.

  • Plan for sickness friendly activities for other children, and accept all forms of help- human or tech-based entertainment will be welcomed warmly in my house.

  • And I hate to be that person, but you really might not get it again. I mean- you absolutely might- but isn’t the thought that you might not a really wonderful one? It’s almost enough to make me take the leap. If I am sick, I know I will get through it, because isn’t that what mums do? And if Kate Middleton can do it in her L.K Bennett heels, I sure as hell can do it in my trusty Air Max 90’s.

** If you are suffering from HG and looking for more support, please contact PregnancySicknessSupport.Org **

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  • Reply sara February 9, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Oh my god- you have just described both my pregnancies. HG is not feeling nauseous, or puking a couple of times… it’s all encompassing. The first time it took a phone call from the bathroom floor to my best friend, (a GP- who didn’t know I was pregnant until that point!) to convince me to take action. 3hrs later I was tucking into a lovely drip with wonderful anti emetics injected into my arse, and a warning that my kidneys were already showing signs of distress. Crazily I did it all again, and went through exactly the same. We’d love a 3rd but my body, teeth and mental health would struggle to cope 🙁

  • Reply Contrarymummy February 9, 2018 at 9:40 pm

    Omg! Two HG pregnancies later ondasentron (zofran) completely saved my life. And still it only made it just bearable. Thank you for sharing your experience. People really don’t appreciate just how horrible it is. Even more so when you have another child you can’t interact with as you are so sick. Luckily she loves her sister now and doesn’t remember those awful 9 months! Xx

  • Reply victoriareece45 February 9, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    I haven’t had HG but I’ve constantly felt sick pretty much everyday in the first 12 weeks and that was bad enough so cant imagine what it must be like for anyone who is going through HG!! Hope your baby comes soon!

  • Reply Sarah Howat February 10, 2018 at 9:07 am

    It’s great that more women are speaking out about HG it’s the only way other people will realise it’s not the same as morning sickness and that it is a very serious condition. I had it with all 4 of my pregnancies and it was utterly debilitating each time it was only with the constant help of my fab husband and family that I got through it. I was sick from the moment I woke up until I fell asleep exhausted at night. I had saliva constantly flooding into my mouth which had to be spat out, each room had a different smell and as soon as I smelled that new smell I was sick so you can imagine how long it took just to get from one room to another, even the air outside smelt! I vomited blood a lot, went into hospital for dehydration and very unhappy kidneys but no medication worked and I wanted it all to end but I was very fortunate that my sickness didn’t last the whole way through my pregnancies, however it did take some while for me to recover after it had gone as the effects of being so unwell do take there toll on you. So glad there is now a support group for women suffering from this!

  • Reply Natalie February 10, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Thank you for this article. I feel HG gets glossed over. People just dismiss it as a bit of morning sickness. Or say oh yeah I had morning sickness or my wife worked through her morning sickness. Yeah thanks for that. It’s amazing how smells can make you so ill. I used to have to hold my breath while going past certain shops like Greggs. There’s food I still can’t eat because I associate them with that time. It’s also not knowing how long it will last. I too was on medication but even taking that was hard to swallow and I threw them back up a lot too. I definitely want more children and am hoping the next time round will be different. I had a stomach bug last week and the nausea gave me flashbacks of that time.

  • Reply Jess Barlow February 10, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    What a great read. It’s like reading a story about me! I’m 16 weeks gone with my third and have been throwing up since Christmas Eve (mainly after around 4pm and through the rest of the evening) I feel exhausted, ratty and have burned the back of my throat due to the amount of vomming. I too was hospitalised with my first baby (girl) but the sickness was manageable with the second (boy). If one more person ‘advises’ me about stem ginger, peppermint tea I’ll throttle them! Time to head back to the GP 👎🏻

  • Reply Sarah February 10, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Everything about this is SPOT ON! I was the first of my close friends to get pregnant and so I didn’t have anyone to really talk to about it. I assumed it was normal and I was being pathetic. Fortunately when I dragged myself to the Gp two stone lighter she was amazing. She basically said to me that I needed to start and anti emetic 3x per day now or she would admit me to hospital where they would give me the same thing. I did have to go through a trial and error process (the third medication I tried was the one) but never had to fight for it which sounds awful.
    I have now done the second pregnancy and I can happily say that it was a case of standard morning sickness rather than full on hg. I did go to the docs at the first sign of nausea and demanded my wonder drugs which I took throughout. I totally get what you mean about not being sure about going again though. People I met whilst having my first were announcing second pregnancies long before I was even prepared to consider it. We finally took the plunge when my eldest was 2.5.
    I too experienced close friends and family members thinking I looked like death. My mother in law still says that when we arrived at their house to tell them I was pregnant she thought we were going to say that I was dying.
    I can honestly say it ruined pregnancy for me and had long lasting repurcussions. For example I felt so horrible I couldn’t face going to NCT and as a result feel that I missed an opportunity to make friends which many people I know have since benefited massively from.
    The happy ending is that now two kids down (both boys by the way, the girl thing is a myth as far as I’m concerned). I can look back on it and be forever grateful I did it for my boys but even more grateful I won’t be doing it again.
    I couldn’t agree with you more about people who call it “Just morning sickness” and ginger biscuits are the biggest load of rubbish I’ve ever heard of (I still can’t stand them and I LOVE biscuits).

  • Reply Seonaid Sinclair February 10, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    Wow this article is the best HG piece I’ve ever read. I to suffered with 2 extreme cases of HG, I have a boy and a girl 8 years apart! Yes it took me that long to have another!
    I’ve spoken to other women who’ve had bad sickness but never any that felt like they were actually going to die ( I’m not even exaggerating!) one doctor in the hospital told me it’s the closest feeling you’ll ever get to haveing leukaemia 😔.
    I too got questioned by my GP when I phoned for repeat medication. Ondansetrone, thiamine and cyclizine. Although the ondansetrone was my saviour.
    Even on these meds, yes you feel better but I never felt myself.
    I pretty much lived on toast with butter a crackers for 9months, it’s horrific!
    You’re right though, yes you forget how bad it truly is but I’ll never be doing it again, I feel devastated that that’s the way it is but I could never put myself or my other children through that again.
    I guess I feel like I missed out on a normal pregnancy as HG takes it away from you.
    It would be truly wonderful if more research could be done into why some women suffer like this.

  • Reply Rachel Richards February 11, 2018 at 10:20 am

    This is brilliant – my midwife kept saying “ your pregnant love your bound to feel a bit Woosy”
    I lost 3 stone.
    But due to being a bigger girl to start with she didn’t see this an issue “it won’t harm you”
    Eventually my gp was a star and prescribed me a bucket full of pills on a daily basis he realised vomiting whilst driving to work was not appropriate, whilst at work being a 100m champion to get to the loo other wise a paper basket would have to do. I started to skip meals my stomach and throat hurt so much it was easier to just Vom liquid than a roast dinner -My gp also put a request in for me to change midwife he was disgusted on her attitude.
    I was last sick on the 29th March 2011 2 days AFTER my baby was born. I had always planned on 3 maybe 4 children – 7 years later I’m building the courage for my 2nd. I’m so glad support is now out there. It’s terrifying and very lonely xxx

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