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Sunday, December 17, 2017

What It Feels Like to Have Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) robbed me of my life the past few months. If morning sickness is a misnomer because it strikes in the morning, afternoon, evening and night, HG is a hell ground that consumes me every day.

I am currently 21 weeks pregnant and after 5 months, I feel like I’m finally getting my life back. I still feel nauseous and queasy. I still suffer from occasional giddiness and severe headache. I still feel like my intellect has gone down and I cannot formulate proper sentences but at least, I can function like a normal person now.

Before I was pregnant, I had always envisioned myself as a happy and healthy pregnant lady. One of my gal pals even said that she could see me being one of those active mummy who would still run about and practise yoga with a big belly. Alas, I never expected to have such a difficult pregnancy when HG struck me.

I could not function like a normal person at all

I vomited so much that I learn that vomit comes in many forms. There is shallow vomiting when I cannot keep anything in. There is deep vomiting that comes with extreme pain, tears and panting. There are the foamy phlegmy ones. There are those that resemble whatever I eat or drink. There are the yellow and green bile that come from deep inside especially when I have nothing else in my guts. There are also the bloody ones when I vomit too much. Due to excessive saliva production, I was also spitting loads of saliva in between vomit sessions.

Other than feeling nauseous and vomiting many times a day, I could not do normal things at all. I was mostly bed-ridden or sofa-ridden. I did not have the strength to stand up for long without feeling giddy, headache or pinking out (blacking out but in my vision, everything is pink). Walking to the toilet many times a day to relieve myself was agonizing and every successful walk out of my room was an achievement.

I could not even look after myself, not to mention looking after my cat, Miyo. Miyo was severely neglected and I had no choice but to send her to my parent’s home. I respect all HG mummies who have to look after their other kids even while suffering.

I could not do simple household chores which really put a toll on my hubby when he had to juggle his busy work schedule and household chores. My parents had to come over to my place to look after me and made sure I get food into my system each time my hubby was on long hours at work or had overnight duties. They also helped me do the daily chores like the dishes, basic cleaning, feeding and clearing Miyo’s litter box, throwing away my many puke bags etc.

There were times when I thought perhaps I was well enough to switch on my laptop and work from home or to catch up on my blog posts but nah, I had never been that well enough to do those.

I spent my days doused with anti-nausea medication and sleeping all the sickness away. My awake time was spent going to the loo, trying to eat, watching mindless TV and replying to messages on my phone. The only places I travelled to were my parents’ home, my OBG clinic and the chiropractic clinic. I even stopped the fortnightly visits to my TCM clinic coz with each long car ride, I needed a few hours before and after to settle my guts.

I was almost handicapped and depended heavily on my hubby and family to get by my daily life.

Drastic weight loss

I vomited everything I consumed and was losing weight when I should had been putting on weight with a human growing in me.

During the initial phase, my weight kept plummeting with every single visit to the OBG. My lowest weight recorded was 45.1kg when I used to weigh 48—50kg before pregnancy. I became so skinny that my parents who saw me every day could not help noticing me growing so thin and frail as the days passed. The bimbo in me liked how my legs looked though. I finally had nice slim legs like my 2nd sis.

I was so weak and dehydrated that each time my gynae saw me, she would ask if I wanted to get myself hospitalized. As I was given home hospitalization leave, I thought it was unnecessary as I was able to rest in the comfort of my home. I did outpatient IV drip as I was too weak and lazy to check myself into hospital. I read that many HG mummies feel better after having IV drip but I felt that it did not really help me much. The drip was cold and made my whole right side so cold in freezing air-conditioned clinic. I felt very nauseous but I could not move to a comfortable position with the added restriction of being hooked up. I don’t like needles being poked on the top part of my bony hand and would bruise badly.

Supersonic sense of smell, taste and hearing

It really sucked to have heightened sense of smell, taste and hearing because everything grated on my nerves and made me even sicker. Everything broke down into layers of disgusting smells and tastes.


Every human, every product and every place has their own unique smell and I could smell them all with this dog nose of mine.

You know how you could smell the lovely scent of someone close to you? I could smell every human’s individual scent and trust me, you wouldn’t want to smell those scent every single minute. I could smell my hubby’s scent many times more than before and it was nauseating to me.

The smell of food is obviously the enemy of anyone who is nauseous and cooked food nauseated me the most. I hated the smell of Chinese cooking which means I could not stand the smell of all my favourite home-cooked food. My parents had to cook everything without garlic because I totally hated garlic then. I could smell all the neighbours’ cooking wafting from their windows and had to close all windows, jump under my comforter and still smell all these disgusting smell. The smell of the stove and blue fire triggered me too so I could not do simple cooking when I was well.

Other than food, every product had a base, middle and top note smell to me and as long as there was a base soap smell, it would trigger me. I puked at what was supposed to be fragrant shower smell. It got so bad that I dread showering. I had to change a few shower foams till I found a fruity one that did not trigger my vomit. I could no longer do the dishes and the laundry because all these smell triggered me even on days when I could function more normally. I stayed over at my parents’ home when the hubby was overseas for a few weeks and also intermittently when he had overnight duties. My sis had to remove the air freshener in her room and seal it in a Ziploc bag just because of me. She had to quickly run to her room after her shower because I hated the shower foam that she used. Heck, I could even smell the shower smell from their neighbours’ home. My dad had to change my sheets and blanket when the softener smell overwhelmed me on the first day I moved back. He took out sheets after sheets from the cupboard to let me sniff for my stamp of approval before changing a new set.

I could smell the unique smell of every place too. I could only rot in the comforting smell of my bed because every room in my home and my family’s home has their unique smell. I could not watch TV in the living room when the smell of dried flowers on the shelf triggered me and I used to love the smell of flowers whether fresh or dried. The carpentry smell in my study room, the mixture of different smell in my parents’ and sis’s room and the unique Miyo smell in the room we keep her in would trigger me badly. Even the bedroom I grew up in in my parents’ home, the very same room I retreated to from disgusting smells didn’t smell the best too. The smell of every place outside the sphere of homes was worse. For example, the lift at my parents’ place has an atomic bomb of smell of many different people, smoke, pee, perfume and products all in one confined space. I used to love the scent of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital which is where my OBG clinic is located. During the last few months, I felt so nauseated by the scent that it was an agony to visit the clinic. I could go on about smell but I guess that by now, you would have gotten the drift.


Moving on to taste, every fresh food had its various layers of taste too. It was so bad that I hated food so much for somebody who used to be a foodie. My body rejected whole real food especially meat, fish and eggs. I retched them out and simply could not swallow them at all. I could taste the urea taste in meat especially pork. Every kind of chicken boiled, fried, steamed, well-marinated etc had a frozen chicken taste. No matter how fresh a fish was, I could taste the pungent fishy taste. I also finally understood why some people dislike eggs. They just had a kind of eggy taste that’s so nauseating.


A lot of sounds grated on my nerves and triggered my nausea and headache. The sound system in my hubby’s car is a little spoilt and the static base sound made me so nauseous that I had to command him to switch off the radio when I could bear it no longer. My pounding severe headache sounded like a troop of galloping horses. I hated the daily tuneless whistling of one my neighbours that I felt like screaming for him or her to shut up. I even wished for the sound of the splashing pool water feature downstairs to stop.


Yeah, if only my vision heightened on top of everything, that would be great. My vision did not improve but perhaps you could say that my sense of sight was heightened because even looking at pictures of food and reading text about food would induce vomit. I could not look at my handphone screen for long as I would get very bad headache and nausea. There was once I puked big time after watching a funny song video about Little India that my colleague sent. It was probably the mixture dynamic colours and food in the video that triggered me.

I started to empathize with those super heroes with heightened senses. Give me normal human senses any time!

Emotional to the point of depression

I cried a lot during my 5 months of pregnancy. I could not control my tears. I was feeling so sick and miserable that I cry myself to sleep while wondering why I was suffering so much.

I cried when I thought about how lousy and useless I was each time I saw people going all out of the way for me.

I cried all 3 times Miyo jumped hard onto my tummy.

I cried and whined a lot to my hubby and he always looked so helpless whenever I did that. Sometimes I would feel like punching him when he said that it was all in my mind, that I should not coop myself indoors, that I should walk around and get some fresh air etc. I feel like punching anyone who said that because it really isn’t all in the mind at all and f*** you I was so weak to even stand, how to walk around and get fresh air? The first time I tried to get fresh air and walked in the reservoir park, I vomited nonstop when I got home till my guts and shoulders hurt badly and cried while thinking why I was so weak and lousy.

I cried for weird reasons. There was once my hubby opened the blinds saying that the darkness was causing me to feel depressed. My tears flowed down uncontrollably at the sight of sunlight streaming in and I begged him nonstop to close the blinds.

My gal pal who went through multiple HG pregnancies would often remind me that "it's the damn hormones". Well, damn those hormones!

Counting my blessings and how I coped with HG

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, certainly brought awareness to HG when she was afflicted by it for the 3rd time this year. If not for her, there would be many people who are still unaware of HG.

There is no known cause of HG, and no proven cure. Tips for alleviating morning sickness do not work on HG patients. Medication only help take away the symptoms and most of the time, we have to suffer while trying to live a normal life. I read somewhere that some HG mummies had to terminate their pregnancy because they are unable to cope with it. Having a kid was difficult for us so I would never ever terminate my pregnancy though I would be lying if I said the thought never crossed my mind.

While most mummies with morning sickness have their symptoms subsiding after 1st trimester, HG mummies take a much longer time. Some HG mummies suffer for the whole 9 months of their pregnancy. Many HG mummies I personally know or whom I got to know from Facebook groups recover from 15 weeks to 20+ weeks with most of them recovering after week 20. And when I say “recover”, it simply means to function more normally. Most of us still continue to have symptoms of nausea and vomit occasionally even after recovery.

I am currently at 21 weeks and have officially returned to work. I started to function better at 20 weeks but with very bad symptoms in between that it was difficult to predict when I was actually recovering. In fact, my symptoms returned while doing this blog post and along with the uncontrollable tears, I moped and sobbed in bed till dinner delivery arrived.

I think I fall in the middle range in terms of HG severity and I am only able to cope with it because I am fortunate in many ways.

Supportive people around me

I have a supportive husband, family, in-laws, friends, bosses and colleagues who empathize with me. I always hear of HG sufferers having people around them who do not understand what they are going through and do not take their predicament seriously. Sometimes, even fellow women with morning sickness discount HG women's suffering thinking that they are exaggerating their condition. I am blessed with kind people around me who empathize with my condition.

Other than empathizing, I am thankful to the people who help me get through the past few months. A HG hubby is a sufferer too. I know I had been a nuisance and huge liability to my hubby with all the added load I gave him at home and how he had to pander about me. The list is too long but I'm sure you get a rough idea.

I am thankful to my mum for coming all the way to my home to buy food or cook for me during the initial phase. I am thankful to my dad who ferried me around when my hubby was not available and cooking for me when I stayed over. I had my regular serving of fresh fruits at my parents’ home because my dad would skin and slice them for my comfortable eating and “served me” while I lazed on the sofa. My hubby never did that until I compared him to how my dad spoils me and forced him to slice apples for me. I am thankful to my 2nd sis for being Miyo’s main caregiver, accommodating to this arrangement without complaints even though she is already very busy. My in laws also helped out in little ways they could like calling me to ask after me and buying food when they visited.

I need not worry about work because my branch colleagues and immediate boss covered for me. They did not bother me about work unless it was really necessary to get urgent information from me. Sometimes the lack of them disturbing me for work made me wonder if I would be asked to leave but to be honest, I was often too sick to worry too much about it. My colleagues had been very sweet and thoughtful and it’s really the people that made me miss going back to work.

I have a Whatsapp group with 2 other gal pals and together, the 3 of us all happen to be pregnant at the same time with our babies being due 2 months apart. Another coincidence is that all 3 of us are HG sufferers! That thread became our support group. We rant and we whine and we “report” our daily suffering on that thread. Most importantly, we encourage one another to hang in there.

Resting at home with home hospitalization leave

I had the privilege of being able to rest at home and managed to avoid undue stress and worry.

With that, I also avoided having too much medication in my system. Before I was pregnant, I had successfully avoided Western medication for a while when I embarked on a journey of healthy lifestyle. No matter how much I suffered, I would feel proud of myself for having abstained from popping pills then. However during pregnancy, I had no choice but to take western medication for my HG symptoms as the suffering was too extreme. Also, I thought that my little one would not grow well if I'm suffering daily, affecting my emotional health and chanelling bad energy.

Nevertheless, I managed to avoid taking too much medication and the very strong ones because I had the liberty to stay at home to sleep it all away. Furthermore, I did not have to get myself hospitalized and hooked up in drips because I could simply rest at home.

Sleep sleep sleep

Despite the dark gruelling days, I caught up with years of lost sleep during this period. I had such a healthy sleeping habit waking up early, sleeping early and having lots of naps in between.

I know I finally have sufficient sleep when years of bloodshot eyes became all white. Yeah, an eye specialist once told me that little capillaries are formed in the sclera (white part of the eye) to obtain as much oxygen for the eye as possible and the only way to get rid of the visible red capillaries is to get enough sleep.

Having sufficient sleep certainly helped tide me over the discomfort I was going through. I also secretly thought that it was the best time get all the sleep I could coz I know how sleep is a precious commodity once the baby pops.

Eat whatever I can and whenever I can

Even though I vomit almost everything I consume, there are moments when I could keep food and water in. Chewing and swallowing very slowly also helped in keeping the stuff in. Since I could not eat whole real food for a period of time, I could only eat processed and dry food. I survived on crackers, chocolates, junk food, milo, oats, maternal milk and whatever that I could stomach. Instead of water which tasted bland, the tanginess and sweetness of processed fruit juices appealed to me and that was how I got myself hydrated. For a while, my gynae gave me the green light to eat unhealthily because at least I was getting some calories even if I was eating and drinking junk.

I used to take prenatal multi vitamins on empty stomach thinking that even if I did not eat, at least I had the vitamins to get me through. Big mistake. Taking any kind of vitamin or pill on an empty stomach can make you feel nauseous. In the case of prenatal multi vitamins, iron is an added culprit and ironically, we need lots of iron during pregnancy. When taking my prenatal vitamins with food did not help, I took it just before I go to bed so that I would be sleeping any sickness away.

Ultrasound scans of my little one kept me strong

Without having witnessed my little one's heartbeat and growth through the monthly ultrasound scans, it was just a "thing" in me that was making me really sick. What kept me going was the 20-week detailed ultrasound scan. I was feeling so sick lying there with the cold gadget pressed onto my belly that the sonographer had to pass me her little container of peppermint paste to keep me from vomiting.

My little one was so cute and active "swimming" here and there, up and down, left and right, kicking about, doing yoga poses and somersaults and then going to sleep just when the sonographer had to take the spine's measurement. I was so thrilled to see all these cute little acts that for a while, my nausea was gone and I forgot about how much I was suffering. Knowing that this thing making me sick is a life... a precious little life... kept me going strong. It made all my suffering worthwhile.

Be thankful for every small step I take ahead

I felt really proud of myself each time I completed something small. For example, when I washed that dirty cup without feeling nauseous, when I cleared Miyo’s poo all by myself, when I ate half my meal without vomiting, when I survived a car ride without feeling too sick, when I walked alone outside etc. They are really insignificant acts to a normal functioning person but to a HG patient, being able to do normal things are all huge achievements that we should be thankful for.


As time passes, I look back to see that I have accomplished a little more than before and have come a long way to battling this dreaded HG. Everything passes and this too shall pass. I still feel nauseous intermittently and vomiting has so far come to a minimum but I have already crawled out from the dumpest dump and I am proud to wear the badge of a HG survivor!


  1. Excellent post (as always)!Thank you very much :)

  2. I am so sorry this has hit you so hard! I'm glad that the symptoms are finally starting to lessen, but I know HG is really serious stuff!

  3. Oh Jo, you've certainly been through hell and back with this. I can't begin to imagine how extraordinarily difficult and frustrating those five months were for you. I had no idea you were even pregnant until recently (and I understand why!) so I never got to properly congratulate you! Thank you for sharing this story, when it comes to pregnancy I feel like there are many sides of it that don't get discussed enough, mostly negative so I know this post will give others in your shoes some hope and understanding in being able to relate too.

    I hope the rest of your pregnancy will be easier for you.

  4. Holy smokes Jo, I never knew you went through that much! I haven't talk to you for so long, and just occasionally see you on IG. I don't know what to say, but it seems like you're okay. And like you say, you have a wonderful support group, just hang in there.

    xo Jo


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