Hyperemesis Gravidarum Is Making Me Fearful of Having Another Kid

One mom discusses her experience with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a rare disorder causing extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Having it for both her pregnancies is making the idea of a third too much to bear.

Young pregnant woman lying in bed
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The severe morning sickness began when I was seven weeks and two days pregnant with my first child. I threw up immediately upon waking up that morning, and then again moments after I arrived at work—I had just started a job teaching at a local private school.

Just two hours later, I was back in the bathroom vomiting again. Nearly 15 minutes late to my fourth period class, I arrived feeling weak, dizzy, and still nauseous. The following week, I could barely stand up. I also hadn't eaten a single full meal in 10 days, as I was only able to stomach water, mini cheddar sandwich crackers, and chicken stock.

When I was nine weeks along, it just became too much to bear. I had to quit my job as a teacher, as well as my position as a fitness instructor at a local YMCA. I didn't know what was wrong with me until a visit to my OB-GYN when I was 10 weeks pregnant. That's when I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a condition that causes severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

"Hyperemesis gravidarum is not just the mild queasiness and nausea in early pregnancy that can be relieved by simply avoiding certain foods and smells or eating a bland diet and crackers," says Lisa Masterson, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN in private practice in Santa Monica, California, who is also the former co-host of the medical show, The Doctors. "It consists of nausea and vomiting that is miserable and relentless and can induce vomiting more than four times per day."

HG can cause weight loss and dehydration, leading to feeling dizzy and lightheaded. "It might lead to hospitalization, and loss of joy and empowerment in pregnancy," adds Dr. Masterson.

It's unclear what causes HG. It's thought to affect between 1 to 3 percent of pregnancies, although "it is hard to keep an exact count of HG cases as it is unclear if cases are properly categorized or labeled as HG," explains Felice Gersh, M.D., an OB-GYN and founder/director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, in Irvine, California.

But Dr. Gersh emphasizes, "HG can be is very traumatic." It can also make people fearful of going through another pregnancy, which is currently the case for me.

My Experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

My growing fetus was healthy and active, and I was prescribed 4mg of Zofran twice a day. My HG symptoms continued through 18 weeks and subsided, but reoccurred at 36 weeks. I was hospitalized shortly after due to dehydration and pre-term labor symptoms. I was released and my daughter was born healthy on her gestational due date with zero complications.

The joy I felt in that moment of meeting my daughter could not be expressed with words; it was the best day of my life. The idea of having a second child didn't scare me that much following the birth of my first child. I felt I knew what to expect the second time around if I were to get HG again. I thought I was prepared.

I became pregnant with my son less than three years later. HG made a grand entrance again, this time at six weeks. During the second pregnancy, the symptoms were much more aggressive and came on very quickly. That first weekend, I went away with my husband to upstate New York, and I ended up never leaving our hotel room. I was going back and forth between sleeping and getting up to vomit in the toilet, repeating the cycle for the whole three-day weekend.

Even just opening the fridge was unbearable for me and the smell of anything cooking induced vomiting almost immediately. Once again, I had to quit my beloved job as a fitness trainer. I also had to move in with my parents for five weeks so they could help me take care of my then 3-year-old daughter as my husband was working full-time. I was prescribed Zofran and hospitalized at seven weeks for dehydration. This time around, HG continued until 21 weeks.

Thankfully, my son was also born healthy without any complications just four days before his due date. But I will never forget my first words the moment after he was born: "Thank goodness I am not pregnant anymore!"

Deciding To Have Another Child Isn't Easy

It is now almost five years since my son was born and my husband and I would love to have another child. It's a regular conversation in our home, with the subject being brought up most often by my two children. "When is Rebecca going to arrive?" my daughter asks. (She already has the name picked out!)

But the thought of being pregnant a third time concerns me greatly. It immediately gives me anxiety. Not only was the physical sickness immense, especially the second time, but it also took an emotional and psychological toll on me.

The memories of suffering from HG twice over are all too real for me. "It sounds to me as if you suffered from a type of post-traumatic stress disorder," Dr. Gersh told me when I relayed my concerns about having a third child. That's not unusual for people who suffered from HG during pregnancy.

Will I eventually decide to try for a third child, knowing that there is a chance that I will endure HG again? It's not an easy decision, so for now, I will let nature take its course and not time a potential third pregnancy. Worrying about HG and how severe my symptoms may be if I get it again is just too anxiety-provoking.

If I do get pregnant again, I will try and focus on the positive outcome: a new member of our family entering the world. But I have to be aware that HG could once again affect my career and ability to take care of my children while my husband works long hours as a physician. So, for the time being, I will enjoy my two young children and seize every opportunity to stay healthy and energized for not only my own well-being but also for theirs.

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