Before I was pregnant with Adam I had never heard of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It sounded more like a spell from Harry Potter than a medical condition that would leave me bed bound for 9 months. Little did I realise that I would soon be vomiting 20-40 times daily, suffering from crippling nausea 24 hours a day and in need of constant care. This went on for 245 days.
During my pregnancy all the advice I could find was geared towards an America audience. At the time Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS) did not have a website and any literature I could find only talked about health care available to US citizens. I couldn’t find anything to inform me of how to get the best treatment for HG in the UK.
Luckily, the publication of Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Definitive Guide has changed the balance. It is aimed specifically at a UK audience and discusses treatments based on the NHS services available. The book is the first of its kind. It is a complete guide to the condition and it really does deliver. It discusses the causes, treatments, coping strategies, advice for family and friends, recovery and trying again. It includes treatment plans, management charts and an important information source for health care professionals. The book also covers difficult subjects such as ending a hyperemesis pregnancy through termination.
Initially I heard about the book back in 2012 when I attended my first Pregnancy Sickness Support conference. Amanda Shortman, author of The Family Patch and volunteer co-ordinator of PSS, had started writing it when her son was 3 months old. She talked about the many hours she was spending looking into the latest HG research with a newborn baby. Last year she was joined by Caitlin Dean, fellow trustee of PSS and author of Spewing Mummy. The pair have worked tirelessly together to make their dream a reality. I can only imagine the hours that have gone into putting this amazing self-published book together.
I was extremely fortunate to be asked to read and review the book before it was published. I have been chomping at the bit to tell you about it. I am excited and honoured to be mentioned in the book along with the Adventures of Adam blog.
After volunteering for PSS for over 2 years and helping over 1,000 HG sufferers on the PSS Forum which I administrate, I thought I knew a lot about HG. I was also under the impression that if I managed to survive one HG pregnant surely there was nothing more to learn. How wrong I was. With every page I was learning about new coping strategies, new complications (thanks for the warning of incontinence!), new treatment methods and tips on how to work with health care professionals. I learnt about fortifying foods and how to use rehydration salts. It is amazing the information that Amanda and Cailtin have managed to squeeze into 232 pages.
The book is divided into 4 sections. Part 1 is geared more towards Healthcare Professionals. To be honest the proposed theories and research into HG went slightly over my head. That is not because of the way that it is written – Amanda and Caitlin have condensed pages and pages of research and explained it clearly. The problem is that there are so many theories which are begging for further research. As yet no single or combined factors have proven to be the cause of HG.
The ‘Management, Treatment and Medication’ section of Part 1 provides invaluable information for sufferers on how to make an informed choice to enable them to reduce the symptoms. It gives a clear explanation of treating HG and what doctors mean when they use the term “risk”. When I was pregnant it seemed I had to fight to get adequate treatment. Several times I was told by GPs “there is nothing more we can do.” At the time I was on the ‘first step’ of the ‘treatment ladder’ mentioned in the book. Had my GPs followed this ‘treatment ladder’ then my symptoms may not have deteriorated at the rate they did. Next pregnancy I shall attend each GP appointment clutching my copy of ‘The Definitive Guide’.
This book should be compulsory reading for every health care professional who comes into contact with pregnant women. The book covers everything from appreciating the difference between ‘morning sickness’ and HG, practical tips for the ward environment, to working in partnership with the sufferer. The book also provides a thorough assessment of pregnancy sickness to assist developing a care plan.
The ‘Coping Strategies’ chapter gives great advice on how to deal with living day-to-day with HG – excess saliva, odours, oral hygiene and reducing the risk of DVT. Whilst pregnant I needed daily Fragmin injections after week 34 because of my immobility. I hope that by following the risk-reducing steps in the book I can avoid these injections during my next pregnancy.
HG was not only hell for myself but also for my husband. Within a short time he became my carer, having to do all the housework as well as make his own meals in addition to his demanding job. Chapter 7 supports partners and carers through the difficult months and provides useful tips on how to deal with a puking partner. The chapter also makes you aware of how helpless your partner can feel when you are suffering.
Part 3 of the book covers life after Hyperemesis. During my pregnancy I was under the false impression that as soon as I gave birth, HG would disappear from my life. That may be true for the immediate nausea and vomiting but unfortunately there are many long term effects that I had not been prepared for. Had I had the information provided in Chapters 10 and 11 I would not have been so hard on myself in those first few months after giving birth. From reflux, incontinence, piles, dental problems to problems with sex and intimacy – HG certainly can cause long term issues.
In the not too distant future I hope to go through another pregnancy. For me the fear of not having another child is greater than my fear of HG. When mentioning having another child most people respond with “you may not get it again” or “if you expect to be ill again then you will.” Unfortunately the statistics are not in my favour. There is an 86% chance of suffering again. Therefore I want to plan. ‘Trying again – Preparing for an HG Pregnancy’ is the chapter I have re-read over and over again. As the book says “there is no harm in hoping for the best, it is always sensible to prepare for the worst. Planning and preparation is unlikely to avoid the occurrence of HG, but it can make coping with and surviving another pregnancy more achievable and may reduce the overall severity of symptoms.”
The questionnaire provided in the book has enabled me to analyse my concerns. The tips mentioned for approaching my GP have made me feel empowered to discuss pre-emptive treatment and put a pre-pregnancy care plan in place whilst I am able to advocate for myself. The handy checklist has provided an action plan of things we need to organise before another pregnancy.
Reading ‘Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Definitive Guide’ I experienced the full range of emotions. I cried when I read Caitlin’s accurate description of what HG is like. Instantly I was taken back to my dark HG days when all I could do was lay still in a darkened room and hope that I would wake up from the nightmare. I laughed at the list of things people should NOT say to a HG sufferer and the suggested comeback comments – I shall never be “gingered” again! Most of all I felt hope. Hope that I shall be strong enough to go through another 9 months of hell.
The last chapter entitled “The Silver Lining – seeing the positive in your experience” had a huge impact on me. Yes, HG is a traumatic experience and it took away 9 months of my life, but it has given me so much in return. During my Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge to raise money for PSS I thought a lot about that last chapter. I’ve discussed before the changes HG has brought to my life and this chapter helped me to reflect on those positive changes. I have taken a proactive approach in the ‘Hyperemesis Improvement Movement’ and hope that future generations will not have to suffer in the same way.
I am immensely proud of what Amanda and Caitlin have managed to achieve in this book. It is incredible that in the first 12 hours of it being available to pre-order it reached #3 on the Amazon best seller list for the category “Pregnancy and Childbirth.”
I am sure that this book will prove to be an invaluable resource for women, and all who are directly or indirectly affected by this debilitating condition. Most importantly, during those dark days of an HG pregnancy the book will offer much needed hope, courage and understanding.
How to get a copy
You can buy it from all major book shops on the high street, such as Waterstones, and online, such as Amazon. Currently it’s only available in paperback but the e-book version will be available in 3-4 weeks.
You can click below to buy Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Definitive Guide on Amazon.co.uk or click here if you live in America for the .com version. Don’t forget to write a review for it (if you like it!) and tell everyone you know about it!
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