More Than Morning Sickness — Hyperemesis Gravidarum


Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Sound familiar? Unless you know a woman with this condition, it probably doesn’t. While you may not know the term, you likely know at least a little about HG from the press about Kate Middleton’s severe morning sickness. Most people are aware that the duchess was in and out of the hospital during her first pregnancy and has been treated for the illness again in her second. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is rare—only 1-2% of expecting mothers will experience it. It is serious and misunderstood, and the women who suffer from it do so in the shadows. One of my oldest and dearest friends, Laura, is one of these women. She had a miserable first pregnancy void of most of the joy and excitement that being with child brings for other moms. Her second pregnancy has been even harder. It is out of a desire to spread awareness of this condition, for her and the many other HG mommies, that I am writing this post. Hang in there, ladies. We are all on your side!

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is an extreme form of morning sickness that usually includes ceaseless nausea and vomiting. Most mothers lose at least 10% of their body weight during this time and many lose much more. Because they have no appetite and struggle to hold down what they do manage to eat, these women struggle with metabolic imbalances, malnutrition, and severe dehydration. They often frequent the hospital for fluids and are placed on a variety of anti-emetic medications. Some need fluids so frequently that they have a PICC line (a catheter that can be left in) put in to keep them from living in the hospital. Some are put on pumps to continually deliver medication. Women with HG often cannot function the way other pregnant women can. They often lose more than weight. They may lose hair or teeth. Sometimes they lose jobs, friends, or significant others. In the worst cases, a mother might lose her baby because of the extreme malnutrition. Some make the impossible decision to terminate their pregnancies because of the many complications.  It can be difficult to care for themselves or their other children—and they are constantly misunderstood throughout it all.

I asked Laura to briefly describe what Hyperemesis is like. Here is what she told me.

HG feels like what I would imagine an overdose of drugs to feel like. Your body is shaky, sweaty, and desperate to rid itself of whatever may be inside. You have weird tastes in your mouth. You cannot keep anything down, including your own saliva which now tastes metallic and salty. The dehydration is very real and takes both a physical and mental toll on you. You want to drink water more than anything, but two sips in and you’re ready to vomit. If you lose all control and chug it, you spend the next hour violently ill. You can’t chug anything. It takes a lot of mental strength and control not to, actually, which then leads to feelings of guilt and depression. Why can’t my body just work? Why can’t I just drink and eat like a normal pregnant person? You start to feel like you’re depriving the baby, and you consider drinking and eating even when you know you shouldn’t, just to throw it all back up in the end. I have lost about 20-22 lbs over the past 3 months, 12 lbs in just 2 weeks. My hair is thinning. I have Mallory Weiss tears up and down my esophagus. I have broken the same rib twice and been hospitalized several times for IV fluids. The only “good” part is knowing that no matter what, it is temporary and not contagious.

Sound like any morning sickness you’ve ever heard of? It shouldn’t because it isn’t. I also asked her how it affected her daily life.

Daily life as I knew it before this pregnancy is a thing of the past. My days are completely different now. I used to wake up no later than 8 am, raring to go. My two year old and I would paint the town red everyday and loved it. I would see and talk to friends, use Facebook, go to the mall…live a life. Now, I hardly see or talk to anyone but a few very close friends, and I feel completely disconnected from everyone and everything. It’s taken a toll on all my relationships—even my marriage sometimes. It’s been difficult for everyone. I spend my nights trying to eat apples and crackers and choke down Flintstones vitamins until about 1 or 2 in the morning. It’s the only time I can eat. Then I try to sleep only to be awoken around 5 or 6 needing to vomit. I have to throw up a few times before I can put a Zofran under my tongue and crawl into a hot shower. I wait for the initial nausea to subside and crawl back into bed until 10 or 11. My husband wakes up with the toddler usually until he has to leave for work. The rest of the day is spent napping, taking hot baths upon waking, and doing nothing at all. I stare at my dirty house and feel terrible about myself, but by the time I am done with the whole morning-song-and-dance my entire body is exhausted and weak. I get a little better in the evenings sometimes, other times it’s an all day affair.

On a good day, Laura may only be sick a handful of times and can even leave the house for a bit. On a bad day, she vomits until her throat bleeds. Her 2-year-old son has taken to saying “Mommy sick and then she sleeps.”

The hardest thing for these women is that most people have never heard of their condition, and so they assume it is just a bad case of morning sickness. This is depressing and frustrating because people expect them to be able to continue to function as any pregnant woman does, and they simply cannot. Sucking it up isn’t an option with such severe illness. Women suffering from HG feel alone in their struggle. So what can you do to help?

Here’s a simple list of do’s and don’ts for anyone who knows someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.


  • Compare HG to your own morning sickness. It isn’t at all the same.
  • Suggest crackers, ginger ale—or really anything. She tried it, and it doesn’t help. Only strong medications work, and most often not even that is sufficient.
  • Expect much from her during this time. She isn’t able to do the things she could do before getting pregnant. She may not be able to attend your wedding, meet you for dinner, or even return a text.


  • Be patient, loving, and supportive. This is likely the hardest thing she has ever been through and it won’t last forever.
  • Get informed! You can’t be truly supportive if you don’t understand.
  • Offer to help clean her house, watch her other children, or do laundry. She probably really needs the help but is afraid to ask.

You can also help by spreading the word. Please consider sharing this article. No mother should have to suffer in silence.



  1. I could write pages and pages, but all I really want to do is say thank you. Thank you for writing an honest piece about HG that doesn’t sugarcoat or dismiss. Thank you for writing it in a way others who have not experienced it might understand. From an HG Mama who has been there and is utterly terrified to do it again but doesn’t want her daughter to be an only child, thank you.

    • Thank you for your sweet response! I am sorry you have had to be one of the few to suffer with HG. I want you to know how much I admire your courage.

  2. Thanks for posting this! I had hg with my first and it was horrendous. I lost 30 lbs in my first trimester, was hospitalized 10-15 times for iv meds and fluids, and was on 20+ pills per day just to keep out of the hospital. I also had mallory-weiss tears, which is a whole new level of fear, when suddenly you are throwing up massive amounts of blood and dont know why.
    It was one of the hardest things I have had to make it through, and lasted from 3 weeks-delivery one day before my due date.
    Aside from the physical issue, I think dealing with other people was the most difficult. “Oh I know how you feel, I felt sick the first few months as well”… nope. You dont know how it feels. Until you have passed out from dehydration, had nurses unable to even get a blood pressure reading, had ivs put in strange places because your veins are nearly non existent, and have been bed ridden for months one end, you really dont get it.

    • Oh my goodness, my heart goes out to you. I cannot even imagine the hell you have been through. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I hope HG soon gets the attention it deserves. It infuriates me that it goes unrecognized.

  3. could any one refer a ob doctor, who have experience on Hyperemesis Gravidarum? My doctor is dr Wingo Carl, he really doesn’t care about my situation. I lost 7 pounds, dehydrate and need nutrition. But have to go to ER each time to get IV, the baptist hospital doesn’t accept any pregnancy woman who is under 16 weeks, and my doctor even hard to reach,


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