*** Trigger warning- mention of severe pregnancy sickness.
I entered my second pregnancy 100 lbs. heavier and eight years after being pregnant the first time. In that eight years I had found a new partner, gotten married, diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome and casually tried to conceive for two years. I will admit, as the months continued to pass with no positive pregnancy test and no regular cycles, my husband and I began to grow more worried.
After three regular menstrual cycles, which were abnormal but incredibly welcomed by me, I conceived our daughter. The first symptom of my pregnancy was extreme nausea followed by vomiting. I thought I had gotten the flu for a few days, but then the nauseated feeling started to come and go and I just knew! I was pregnant!
The joy and excitement quickly settled when my symptoms continued to get worse, beginning at four weeks pregnancy. Eventually I would be vomiting 20+ times a day, riddled with pain and nausea 24/7 and wetting myself regularly with the constant violence of getting sick. My husband who had never been up close and personal with a pregnant person did not know what to do! He rubbed my back worryingly as I spent so much time hanging over our toilet bowl.
Eventually I went to the emergency department at the maternity hospital because I couldn't take it anymore. Sadly, I was treated like an ignorant first time mom who was an utter whimp. I was told, "you're pregnant, it's normal to get sick." I knew that! I experienced my fair share of nausea during my first pregnancy- I also knew what I was experiencing this time was extreme. I left the maternity hospital with nothing to help me, including no offer of IV fluids. I felt completely disheartened and depressed.
I discovered what hyperemesis gravidarum is by chance via an online search and with no support of my healthcare provider at the time. I connected with another expectant mom and we talked about how difficult it was to enjoy pregnancy while being so ill. We both had to leave work over hyperemesis! I sought out acupuncture, used motion sickness bands, other natural remedies and eventually anti-nausea meds to cope. I received the medication only after returning to A&E for the second time demanding more help.
Throughout the 20 weeks of severe sickness, I think I was brushed off primarily because I was a fat person. When I told medical professionals I had lost 30 lbs in a month, it was implied that was ok because I had more than enough weight on me anyway. At one stage I told them I couldn't even keep sips of water down or suck on ice chips- I was still ignored or told that was ok! I was beyond concerned about both my physical and emotional wellbeing. And how was my baby being supported nutritionally?
My misery was labelled as less extreme and less serious simply because I was a fat person.
This baffles me. My 12.5% body mass loss in a month didn't set off alarm bells for ANYONE other than myself and my closest friends and family. There was no offer of mental health support, IV fluids or meeting with a nutritionist. I am convinced I would have been listened to and taken more seriously had I been a thinner person. I also think I would have been shown more sympathy and understanding, as research shows healthcare professionals treat obese (fat, plus size) people differently.
Here's the bottom line: hyperemesis gravidarum SUCKS no matter who you are! Your size or shape doesn't make coping with extreme nausea or vomiting any easier. The physical and emotional implications don't discriminate based on size, but apparently health care professionals do whether they realise it or not. This is unacceptable and we need to start holding people accountable.
If you're looking for help, support and/or more information on hyperemesis, please see the links below. If you know of an org you would like added, simply get in touch!