Friday, 23 January 2015

What Not To Say To Someone Suffering Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Over the last few weeks, I've come to realise how little understanding there is in the world when it comes to hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Clearly I've been frequenting pregnancy and parenting forums for far too long; I'd not only heard of it, but I did have a vague idea that it was pretty darn serious and debilitating. Of course I didn't have any comprehension of how debilitating, but I'm well versed in that now.

Although family, friends, and even the occasional stranger don't understand the condition and the reality of living with it (I use the term 'living' loosely), everyone has a little nugget of advice to offer. The thing is - and I say this with love - this advice is usually complete baloney and actually borders on insulting. So please, don't. Just resist. We know you mean well, but if you find any of these on the tip of your tongue, close your mouth and swallow them back down:

1. "Have you tried ginger?"
(Warning: heavy sarcasm ahead. Proceed with caution)
Ohhhhh! So I've had doctors, midwives, you know - medically trained professionals - trying various different types of treatment... if only I'd realised it was as simple as having a little bit of ginger!
Seriously though, ginger is hardly a secret and any woman suffering the first hint of sickness can easily find that suggestion on Google. The thing is, it's only useful in a particular form and for mild sickness, which really isn't going to help in these circumstances.

2. "How's your morning sickness?"
You know, if I had the energy, I'd be all up in your face right now and clawing your eyes out. This is not morning sickness. Seriously, Google it. Go on. Check out the comparison of morning sickness and HG. And then never, ever, utter those two words in my presence again.
Referring to this constant suffering as simple old 'morning sickness' makes me feel as though you're trivialising it. I'm sorry, it's not the case that I wake up, feel a bit queasy, hurl, and then get on with my day. Not even close. I've barely moved from my bed or sofa in weeks (except to pray to the porcelain god, of course). Getting dressed feels about as physically draining as climbing Everest. So no, its not 'morning sickness'. 

3. "You just need some fresh air."
Ahhhhh, another really simple solution none of the medical professionals thought of! Tell you what, we'll go for a walk, you and I. You just wait downstairs for me while I get showered and dressed. Of course, it will take a while; I'll probably throw up on myself a couple of times while showering, so I'll have to start over at least twice. Then, obviously, that last tiny little bit of energy I had stored was used up while taking the aforementioned shower(s) so I'm going to need to lie down for a few minutes before I attempt to insert myself into clothes. Not to mention that I need to make the world stop spinning, just for a minute. Actually, I'll tell you what, why don't we forget the walk and you can just open a window for me on your way out? That's all the fresh air I need. Thanks.

4. "Should you be taking those tablets if you're pregnant?"
Look, no woman of sound mind wants to take medication unnecessarily. Especially when she's carrying a precious baby. If I really had the option to not take them, don't you think I'd go with that?
As it stands, without medication I can't eat or drink anything. Anything. My body has been dehydrated and malnourished. This is very dangerous for my unborn child, and actually puts both of our lives at risk. I'm not being a drama queen, that's just a fact. So if my taking this medication - which has been studied and shown to have no detrimental effects when used during pregnancy, I and my doctor have both read up on it - means that I can take in some fluids and a small amount of nutrients, then I'm going to do it. It's far better than not, in my opinion. The benefits outweigh the non-existant risks.

5. "Sickness is a sign of a healthy baby."
Is that supposed to reassure me? How healthy do you think the baby is when the mother is dehydrated and malnourished? Please, do add to my guilt.

6. "I wish I had it, I've put on so much weight in pregnancy."
Seriously? Seriously?!?! Read all of the points above, and tell me again you wish you couldn't eat or drink, you wish to put not only your life but your unborn baby's life at risk, all for the sake of saving yourself the trouble of gaining a few extra pounds. Believe me, I'd give anything to be in your shoes right now. I'd love to eat just one full meal!

There are a few more, but these are the ones that have particularly irritated me. If you do want to show caring to a friend who is suffering, I beg you please don't try to offer advice. The best thing you can do is ask how she is, if there's anything you can do to help, and just let her know that you're there and you care. She may be too ill for visitors, but drop her a text every few days - believe me, HG leaves a woman feeling very isolated and lonely and any form of conversation is welcome.

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The List


  1. This almost kind of goes with the "why don't you just adopt" suggestions ya know. I am sorry you are feeling so bad. I hope some how some way it gets better sooner rather than later.

  2. Ah I suffered with HG when I was pregnant with Boo and oh my god hated every single person who mention ginger... tell you what go get my some ginger biscuits I'll eat them...and throw them up all over you... how's that for ginger biscuits!!
    I wholeheartedly agree with all the points mentioned, though I never had anyone say that wish they had it due to weight gain.. that's probably a good thing though as I would not have been responsible for what came out of my mouth... words included !!

  3. Oh hun, poor you :-( I worked for quite a while as a Midwife on an ante-natal ward, and a lot of my women were in to be re-hydrated and given anti-emetics for HG. I can honestly say that despite having studied it as a student I had no grasp on how horrific it was for women until I witnessed it first hand. I don't think anyone can truly 'get' it until they've had it or cared for someone with it. Sending love x

  4. Hugs to you, Jenni!! Hoping that you finally feel better! Get the rest you and little baby need, and don't worry about work!

  5. Advice on such a specific medical condition from people who have never had it...yeah, I would be a bit peeved!

  6. Oh I'm so sorry that you have been so sick. I've definitely been keeping up with your blog, but I didn't know what was truly going on until reading this! You're right. I think when people offer advice they mean well, but it's best to understand what you're offering advice about before throwing in your two cents! I hope you feel better soon!

  7. Ha!! I love that last one especially! Sorry people idiots, often well meaning, but seriously saying any of these things to a pregnant woman who is also feeling minging will only go one way!!

    Thanks for linking up love@ #TheList xx


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