Morning Sickness vs Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Do you know the difference?

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For women with HG, working can become impossible. The nausea and vomiting greatly interfere with the ability to perform expected tasks. There’s often a need to get extra help to care for children. In some severe cases, a woman may even need assistance with basic hygiene help. It isn’t uncommon for HG families to need to hire help or even move in with family, for round the clock support….(read more)
The above quote is linked to the best article I’ve found explaining the difference between Morning Sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I’m so thankful for all the awareness about HG, but along with it, I’ve heard a lot of women claim they had it who obviously have not. Both Morning Sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum are horrible, but it is not ok to say you had it when you did not. The reasons are: 
 
  1.  It is really discouraging for moms who are in the midst of HG or are still recovering to see someone make it seem easier than it really is, or speak lightly about it. 
  2.  It creates further confusion over what HG is which is harmful and hurtful to legitimate HG moms.
  3. It is unknowingly cruel. Consider the person who has a growth that needs to be surgically removed telling a person with cancer that they know what it is like to have a cancerous growth.  They are both awful, but one is much worse than the other — it is, in fact, life threatening and not easily cared for — just like hyperemesis gravidarum.
 

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is actually very uncommon. Only .05-2% of pregnant women have HG worldwide, so it is unlikely to know more than one or two people who have had it (unless, of course, you have had it and seek out others for support :-)). It is also impossible to sustain an Hyperemetic pregnancy without medical interventions (which are often risky for the unborn baby).

home IV fluids

one of my home IV fluids

Hyperemesis Gravidarum has been around for a long time. I’ve met moms who have children my age who endured HG in the 70s and 80s. Rest assured that doctors were aware of what it was “back then”: if you had a good doctor, they medicated and hydrated you. If you had a bad doctor, you either miscarried, had an abortion or were institutionalized. It is unlikely that you had a true case of HG and your doctor didn’t diagnose you because without medical intervention, you would have lost your unborn babies life and possibly your own. My first HG pregnancy was undiagnosed because it was incredibly mild. The difference between mild HG and morning sickness being:  that while I still lost a lot of weight, was severely dehydrated and malnourished, I was on prescription medications just to keep the baby alive.  Sure, I also had to quit working and vomited around the clock non-stop for the first 3/4ths of my pregnancy. I remember a time where I was too weak to get off the floor, where I had been vomiting for over an hour and when there was nothing left to vomit, I continued to to dry heave every few seconds uncontrollably with a burnt and bleeding throat. That is hyperemesis.

For some women, the emesis may resolve around mid pregnancy  and they are able to rejoin the land of the living, it is then that you will actually see them at church, in town, out to eat — functioning like a healthy pregnant woman. So it is possible to have an HG mom look perfectly normal, but for many, like myself, the vomiting lasted the entire pregnancy. By the time I had my fourth child, my body was so malnourished due to my Hyperemetic Pregnancies, that I stopped having a period for the next FIVE years and had menopause symptoms throughout that time. It is highly unlikely to be an HG mom with more than a few kids because Hyperemesis Gravidarum literally, slowly kills your body — and too often, takes your unborn baby’s life. 

I’m not trying to compare to see who has it worse, my concern is only for the moms who are suffering unbelievably and unable to get the help they need because people underestimate, misunderstand or are led to believe that Hyperemesis Gravidarum isn’t really that bad. Some of those who don’t understand actually think that moms who succumb to HG are weak, dramatic or even crazy (personal experience talking here). Please, please, please, educate yourself so that you understand the difference and are able to stand up for the HG moms who are literally, too weak to stand up for themselves. Morning sickness is horrible — if anyone knows, a mom who had hyperemesis does — but it is not, in any way, the same thing as having hyperemesis gravidarum. Please be compassionate, be honest, and gracious. Blessings to you and yours, Abra

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P.S. It is true that my third HG pregnancy was managed from home with an experienced midwife, but it was in cooperation and oversight of a practicing, high risk specialist obstetrician who I answered to personally. We used prescription medication and had home iv fluids and I monitored my own ketones/dehydration daily. While we were blessed and our son was born healthy and happy, it is not an experience I would recommend.
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About Abra Carnahan

Abra and her husband, Ben, have been married since the summer of 2004. They live in Idaho where she stays home with their four children. Having survived Hyperemesis Gravidarum and diagnosed with PTSD, Abra is passionate about pursuing God and her hobbies: reading, archery and eating cheese.