Pregnancy with Hyperemesis Gravidarum HG with Kalei Rowell
We talk about Hyperemesis Gravidarum HG with Mom of 3 Kalei Rowell. She was diagnosed with HG during her last pregnancy and wants to help educate others on the mental, emotional, and physical toll that this pregnancy complication brings. We discuss the difficulties and share tips for women who have HG and tips for women who haven't had it but wish to support their friends through it.
Some Snippets from the Episode
What is HG?
Kalei: Hyperemesis Gravidarum, it is easier to just say HG. HG is persistent severe vomiting leading to weight loss and dehydration. Some experts say it is 1000 times worse than morning sickness. You may have heard the media talk about when talking about Kate Middleton. She is one of the most famous people to suffer from HG.
Did HG start right away or did it come on later? -Madison
K: It did not with me but many know they are pregnant because of how severely sick they are. It can start right off the bat at 4 weeks and be bad the entire pregnancy. For me it did not start right away. I had normal morning sickness until about 12 weeks and then it really hit hard!
A day in the life for me with HG and this can vary from person to person. I don’t know if we need a warning, but it is a lot of puke talk and pee talk. -Kalei
K: Its about perfectly times meds and lots and lots and lots of puking. I would wake up puking but if I wasn’t puking I would have severe nausea and heartburn. Nothing sounded good but I knew at the beginning that I needed to eat. So, I would try to eat some crackers or bread, Something really mild. And than that would kick off the puking for the day. So by the end of the pregnancy I would not even try to eat something in the morning. I would just try to get some Gatorade or water down so I could take my medication.
The majority of my pregnancy I would try to just eat one meal a day. -Kalei
Between 2 and 4 pm. If I could eat at that time the likelihood of me keeping it down was higher
M: but just one meal a day that’s hard
K: not even a meal. If I could eat one granola bar or on slice of bread and keep it down it was a good day. By the end if I could just make it to house of pop for a 32 oz soda with ice that would be my dinner.
After I ate, I would take a nap and then start puking through the evening. Then I would puke all night. I would wake up puking. Like, I would get up to pee and be puking too.
Most days I would say I puke about 30 times but there were also days that I puke 10 times and hour. -Kalei
I would be shaking and so weak. I remember not even being able to cry because I was so dehydrated.
It a cycle where you know you need to eat or drink something but you know that if you do you will just puke again. So eating doesn’t even feel worth it.
I started planning my meals on how easy It would be to throw up - Brittany
K: OH yeah, like you gauge. Is this worth it because it is going to come back up
B: Mine was like Wendy’s Frosties and cream of wheat. They tasted good and were easy to throw up
Did you end up losing weight in your pregnancy?
K: I did yeah. I usually gain a lot of weigh in my pregnancies so not gaining any weight and losing 5-10 pounds was a huge thing for me. Like normally I gain 50 pounds so losing weight instead of gaining was hard. I could tell a lot of it was me losing my muscle mass. It was really hard to see physically that I was weak and had nothing left.
You get used just puking everywhere -Kalei
K: I had puke bags in my car, in my purse, in my nightstand, the stupid green bags were everywhere. I would try and get our any time I had energy. It was better to puke outside the house than inside the house. I remember telling my husband that everywhere I have gone during this pregnancy I have puked. Every store, every restaurant, every park. I have left my mark all over town.
It is believed that 15 – 20% of HG pregnancies are terminated. -Kalei
That is roughly 1 in 7 which is super high. I don’t think people realize it but now that I have lived through it, I can under why that number is the way it is. I am not saying it is right or wrong but I can empathize a little bit with women and the right to choose and can understand the desperation just to end it all.
B I had it with my first pregnancy and when it controls your life like that. I mean it literally controls your life. Your best friend is a bucket or a toilet. So, when you don’t ever feel human any more you are just begging to die so it can stop.
K you feel like your shriveling up and dying. I could feel myself getting weaker while I was puking. Then reading that facts. 1 in 7. Once you hear that and you can kind of relate, you can understand just wanting it to stop.
Hg has like a spectrum of how sever and how it affects each woman. Some women need pic lines or in home nurses to survive their pregnancy
Did being sick all day make it hard to be excited for your baby? -Madison
K: It affects every part of your pregnancy but the hardest one was being able to connect with the baby for sure. It is mentally draining and I was not in a stable place. I know now that I wasn’t mentally good. Looking back it is a lot easier to see. There were many, many thoughts of just wishing it would just end. Like wishing I would miscarry. I was so distant from the baby that I felt like there was no way that the baby could be born with out problems. I was taking all these meds there was lack of nutrients. I just hoped the baby would die because I felt like it wasn’t going to be ok if I made it to term.
Its hard to say that now because I absolutely love her, but at the time that is what I felt. Like it would be best for the baby and me. Just to be done with it.
There was times I thought it would be better if I died because me being sick all the time was more work for my husband and I wasn’t being a mom to my older kids. I would have to ask my kids for help with getting me water and getting me my meds. I would think “How am I supposed to take care of a baby when I can’t even take care of myself or the two kids I already have.”
It was a really hard place to be mentally to deal with that I know this is temporary and will end when im done being pregnant but in my head I felt like I was going to feel this way even after the baby was here and I would have to take care of the baby while feeling this way.
You couldn’t see an end to it. -Madison
Yes you are stuck in a cycle of like feeling like you are dying so it’s weird. Luckily I had a good support system and doctor. He helped me realized that those thoughts were not normal and helped me get on some meds that helped.
But I can see how people who don’t have support and don’t get help mentally, that they would feel like there is no other option other than to get rid of the pregnancy to stop throwing up. I can understand that because I had those thoughts. It weird being in a healthy mental state now and seeing that I was a totally different person because of HG
B: You can’t do even the most simple things because you literally have to save all of your energy that you possibly can because its so draining. Its stupid and cheesy but in the Twilight (Eclipse) movie when Bella is pregnant and you can see it sucking the life our of her. That is women with HG. I remember watching that and thinking “That’s me!” That’s how HG feels
How did HG affect your relationship with your spouse and your kids? -Brittani
K: My relationship with my husband was definitely affected, because he went from husband to caretaker and then not only being dad he is now mom and dad and was still working his full time job. It’s also really hard to want to be intimate when your exhausted all the time. Even if you do have some energy there is always the chance that you are gong to puke at any moment. You can’t have a physical relationship when you have HG. Its hard to feel connected on a normal husband-wife level when your more like the caretaker and patient.
M: Was it hard for you to give in to the role to be taken care of?
K The first few weeks I was like I’m fine, I’m fine, I can manage. I didn’t want to tell anyone how bad it was but after a lot of weeks of not being able to even do basic house cleaning or things like that I knew that not only was I going to neglect my kids from having a mom there, but they also have to live in a dirty house with dirty laundry. And that pushed me to tell people I needed help.
Some people didn’t really believe that I couldn’t do laundry. -Kalei
K: They were like well, I had morning sickness and I just pushed through it. That's why I want to talk about this. When somebody comes to you asking for help don’t tell them its not as bad as it is. Don’t downplay it to them because they are finally asking for help. Just help.
It was really hard when people would say “Well, there are so many people that would just give anything to have a baby right now. I know that, but as I feel like I am shriveling up right now, like shriveling into nothing I am not thinking about anyone else right now. I feel for those people who can’t have babies but I feel like I am dying right now. I needed help
How to react when someone tells you they have HG
K: Don’t tell them what they need to do to feel better. They are already trying all the things and then some and adding ginger to their diet is not going to fix it.
If you are going through an HG pregnancy
You are not alone and it really is as bad as it is. It is not all in your head and it’s real. It is hard. Speak up for yourself at appointments. Don’t down play it to your doctor. Don’t be afraid to try medication. There are so many out there that could potentially work, and a lot of the time they don’t, but if you can get the right cocktail of medication it could give you some relief.
I was taking everything in the book. On the days that I didn’t take things at the right time I could tell the next day was going to be miserable. Even though I was still so sick It was better than how sick I was without the medication.
If you know someone with HG
Validate their feelings. Cook a meal for them. When I was sick, I tried to cook something for my husband and I would get making something and It would make me so sick we would have to get take out. Ask them if you can clean their how. Ask them what would be the most helpful to them because every person is different in what they can and cant handle having someone else do.
Just be there and available for when they do need help and ask for it. Also watch for signs of depression. Don’t judge them for their feels but let them know if you are concerned and be there for them.
This is a topic that many know nothing about until you live it.
We need to help women feel comfortable talking about the difficult parts of their pregnancy even if our experience is different. We need to be there for each other.
Have you had HG in a pregnancy? What do you wish people understood? Share your thoughts with us!