It’s more than just an extreme case of morning sickness – it’s a debilitating condition that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. This intense sickness is so life altering that it affects not only the pregnant person, but also those closest to them. In addition to a constant state of nausea and uncontrollable vomiting, there are so many other side effects that can leave a pregnant person out of commission for nearly the entire pregnancy.
While there is very little relief or treatment for someone with hyperemesis gravidarum, there are several things loved ones can do to help make their 9 months of hell a little less unbearable…
1. Don’t call it “morning sickness” Hyperemesis gravidarum is not just morning sickness on steroids. Don’t expect to understand what they are going through even if you had “really bad” morning sickness. Hyperemesis gravidarum is completely debilitating and someone who suffers from it are often unable to function, even hospitalized, so comparing their condition to the nausea and vomiting that 90% of pregnant individuals experience is kind of insulting.
2. Believe them A lot of people believe that nausea is a “mind over matter” situation. And while the embarrassing thought of vomiting in a public place is enough to cause anyone severe anxiety, it’s not the reason why they are nauseated. Don’t assume that they are just being dramatic. Believe that their pain is real and don’t expect them to suck it up and go on with their day.
3. Know the symptoms The symptoms will be the same as those of morning sickness at first. But if they start vomiting more than 10 times a day and are unable to keep down any food at all then it’s a warning sign. Watch for signs of dehydration, anemia and low blood pressure which could all indicate that they’ll need additional treatment.
4. Hide while you eat If you can’t cook or bring home your favorite foods then what’s a person to do? Just because they can’t eat doesn’t mean you don’t have to – just don’t do it in front of them. Despite the fact that they can’t eat and that all food and the smell of food makes them vomit – they can’t help but fantasize about all the food they want to eat. They are starving but still experiencing all the same pregnancy cravings, so watching someone else eat food that they do desperately want is just plain torture.
5. Give a massage With all of that time in bed and the fact that they are on the verge of dehydration, they will find their muscles in a state of atrophy. This often results in leg cramps and back spasms. A massage every once in a while, will help with blood flow. There are also several acupressure points that can help ease up nausea and you can try the sea bands. If you’re not great with your hands, then you can book them a pregnancy massage. Be sure to find someone who specializes in prenatal massage as not every massage therapist is extensively trained in prenatal massage.
6. Stand by them Literally. Standing up for any amount of time is a bad idea for someone with hyperemesis gravidarum. Low blood pressure, low sugar levels and near starvation almost definitely means they will faint. If they need to stand, stay close by and give them an arm to lean on for support. If they feel faint, elevate their legs to help the blood rush back to the head.
7. Don’t offer crackers and ginger ale Whatever home remedy you can think of for nausea and vomiting – they have tried it. Offering the simplest solution that most people suggest for simple cases of morning sickness is insulting to someone with HG. Sufferers of hyperemesis gravidarum are usually unable to keep any food or liquid down at all, so while your intentions might be good, it’s important to realize that crackers and ginger ale just won’t cut it. They need much more extreme solutions and usually (but not always) end up hospitalized with an IV for dehydration or a feeding tube up their nose.
8. Keep stinky foods away While salami and blue cheese might be your preferred bedtime snack, it’s a death wish for someone with hyperemesis gravidarum. Any foods that have a strong smell should be kept out of the house or wrapped tightly enough that they do not detect it. The smell of cooking, especially frying, or anything with onions, garlic or heavily seasoned foods is also a big no-no in the home of someone with hyperemesis gravidarum.
9. Make fresh juice Keeping down food while suffering from HG is next to impossible. The trick is to find things that are high in nutrients and can be absorbed by the body quickly so that even if she can keep it down for a few minutes before vomiting, they will still experience some of the benefits and hopefully stave off dehydration. Soup is a tried-and-true option but sometimes hot food can irritate the stomach. Blended soups are normally preferred over chunky ones and the fewer aromatic ingredients, the better. One of the best solutions is fresh juiced vegetables and fruit. The store-bought juices often contain too much sugar which also irritates the stomach, but if you have a juicer or blender, make some out of vegetables and fruit. Play around with combinations that appeal to them – some people find lemon and citrus very soothing for nausea – while others can’t handle the acidity. Another great solution for a liquid based diet is protein packed meal replacement drinks. There are so many different flavors, brands and varieties to choose from, that there’s bound to be one they can stomach. A popular one is Ora So Lean & So Clean.
10. No smoking The smell of cigarette smoke is the most offensive one for someone with hyperemesis gravidarum. You may think you’re being kind enough by not subjecting them to second hand smoke but bear in mind that some people with hyperemesis gravidarum can smell it from 100 feet away depending on which way the wind blows. They can also smell it on your clothing, skin and hair so if you’re smoker – either consider quitting (recommended) or keep a very far distance and possibly even showering and brushing your teeth afterwards.
11. Let them rest Sleeping and vomiting are the only two constants while battling hyperemesis gravidarum. Most likely they will be taking some type of anti-emetic medications that will make them extremely drowsy. Factor in that they will have absolutely no energy thanks to their zero-calorie intake and sleep will be all that they will be able to do. Even sitting upright and watching television will require energy that they do not have to spare. So, let them sleep – because at least if they are asleep, they’re not vomiting.
12. Use unscented products People with hyperemesis gravidarum have an extremely heightened sense of smell. Anything that’s too strong (even if it’s their favorite scent) will make their nausea worse. Products designed to cover up bad smells, such as bath and body products, hand soaps, deodorant or air fresheners can make the situation worse. Switch to unscented products or skip them all together.
13. Clean the toilet This is where someone with hyperemesis gravidarum will spend the majority of their time. Some people can vomit up to 100 times in a single day. And the absolute last thing they will want to do after all that is clean. There is nothing, I repeat – NOTHING, more meaningful to them than to have someone else clean the toilet. Again, keep the smell of the cleaner in mind. You don't want anything too strong and unscented would be best.
14. Avoid the road less traveled
Nausea is nausea whether it’s motion sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. If you’re driving them around, take care to avoid bumpy roads and sharp turns. Even if they’ve never had motion sickness before – the now delicate state of their stomach will make every movement feel like an internal earthquake. Make sure to pack vomit bags for the car ride and prepare to have to pull over several times.
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