Coping with hyperemesis


Pregnant woman asleepTraditional remedies for morning sickness don't work for hyperemesis gravidarum. It's essential you get antiemetic medication from your GP or via a maternity assessment unit as soon as possible.

Even with anti-sickness medicine, you may still have trouble eating, drinking and following your normal lifestyle. The following advice from Mumsnetters is about how to cope once you're on a suitable medication regime:

  • Eat little and often
  • Eat protein-rich, low-fat meals
  • Avoid nausea triggers if possible
  • Get extra rest

At all stages, the most important coping strategy is rest. Don't think you are somehow being a wimp if you feel dreadful after trying to do the simplest thing. Listen to your body, and rest. If you work, get a sick note from your GP.

Avoid becoming dehydrated, if you can. If you can't tolerate drinks, try sucking ice cubes made of juices, sipping very slowly through a straw or even just holding liquid in your mouth. If this doesn't work, then accept that you may be admitted to hospital. A drip and intravenous antiemetics can give you hours/days of respite, which is important for your physical and mental health.

If you have small children to look after, do everything in your power to sort out childcare - lean on relatives, nurseries and friends. 

And as much as possible, avoid nausea triggers. For some women the slightest thing will trigger nausea, including the sight of food or even hearing someone talking it. Avoid cooking and make sure that windows are open and you are far from the kitchen while it is going on.

Coping emotionally

Don't feel guilty about needing help and staying off work. You wouldn't be expected to carry on regardless if you were undergoing treatment that caused similar symptoms, such as chemotherapy. The house, your other children, partner and work may have to fend for themselves for a while, but if you push yourself the vomiting will get worse.

Lying alone at home can be boring and depressing. Get DVDs of your favourite TV shows or films, preferably comedy to try to lift your mood. If watching TV makes you nauseous, try radio or listening to talking books. If you have understanding friends who can come over for a while and just be around it will help.

Avoid thinking ahead more than the next few days. Torturing yourself with "I have 20 weeks of this left to go" won't help (although it's easier said than done).

Coping physically 

Temporarily forget about a healthy diet and just eat whatever you can, whenever you can. In a normal diet, too much salt and sugar is bad for you, but when you consume nothing else, this may be your only source of calories, fluid and salt for the day.

Bad things to throw up...

  • "I drank a blueberry and blackberry smoothie in my puking everything phase. I cannot begin to tell the horror of that sight. Any witnesses would have called a priest." Essie3

And good things to keep down...

  • "Full fat coke works for me - advised by hospital (I hate it, I don't know why it works but it does)." Stripeybumpsmum

Many women find that in the peak stages of hyperemsis eating vegetables and some fruits causes immediate vomiting, but that sweet and salty foods are more likely to stay down than healthy foods.

If you can't stomach plain water, try coke (flat or fizzy) Lucozade, lemonade, milkshakes, IronBru, Dr Pepper, orange squash, apple juice, lime juice, ice cubes made of flat coke or water, and ice lollies.

When solids become bearable, try jelly, tinned fruit, ice lollies, ice cream, crisps, fish fingers, potato cakes, crumpets, soda bread and similar potato-based or salty foods.

Coping with well-meaning but unhelpful advice

Women with hyperemesis are often told by clueless friends and family that it's morning sickness, a normal part of pregnancy, and they just have to put up with it. And even from other women there can sometimes be an attitude of, "Well, I had morning sickness and I just got on with it."

This leaves you feeling that you're a whinger and malingerer and that if only you could adopt a positive attitude then you'd be fine. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to further depression in what is already a depressive condition.

This Mumsnetter says: "I think what was worse than the condition was the complete lack of empathy from everyone. I had comments such as: 'You can't be sick if you haven't eaten anything' (paramedic); 'You need to be more positive it's all psychological' (ward nurse); 'I know you can't keep anything down but try Dioralyte' (GP); 'You look awful - like a skeleton' (sister-in-law); 'You're pregnant, not ill' (colleague)."

Enlist supportive friends or family who can firmly but politely fend off these comments. You may have no energy to deal with it yourself.

If possible explain to the person giving the unwanted advice that you're not suffering from morning sickness but from a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum and direct them to sources of information.

Coping the next time you're pregnant

If medication worked in your previous pregnancy, have it ready to take as soon as you feel ill. Studies show that the quicker you get on top of the sickness, the better the medication works. Because hyperemesis can start within days of missing your period, see your GP as soon as you know you're pregnant.


Last updated: over 1 year ago