Preventing hyperemesis gravidarum (severe pregnancy sickness)

This post is about how I avoided horrific, debilitating pregnancy sickness this time around. Most people will have no interest here, but I would love to help other sufferers so please send them this post! This info is really hard to find and, in my experience, doctors and obstetricians do not have the answers and advice that sufferers need!


So, at 25 weeks pregnant and distinctly less sick that I was last time with full-blown Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), I'm ready to share the steps that I took to help avoid HG this time. 

Like most HG sufferers, my GP and Obstetrician had all told me that there was nothing I could do to ever prevent or lessen HG. On hearing that my mum had it for all her pregnancies, and that I had it with Ella, they gave me about a 90-100% chance of experiencing HG for all my pregnancies. Also like most HG mothers, this bought on feelings of panic and anxiety and a bit of post-traumatic stress when it came time to think about having another baby. I started freaking out and my desperate researching led me to a facebook group called Preventing Hyperemesis Gravidarum. And within that support group of desperate, determined and traumatised women was where I found all the answers that medical professionals had not been able to give me. I implemented all their suggested techniques based on their own experiences for what helped. There was gold here that I'd not come across anywhere else, and for the most part, it worked.

Here's the protocol I followed PRE-PREGNANCY:

As many months before pregnancy as possible (for me I had about 3 months of prep before conceiving, but use whatever length of time you have) I took the following:

1. Magnesium  
  • Liposomal Magnesium. This is a liquid and is the only form of magnesium that doesn't cause stomach upset. It was worth every cent. Side note - I slept AMAZINGLY once I started on this and even found it successfully treated and prevented my migraines which I normally rely on strong drugs for.
  •  I also purchased Ethical Nutrients Mega Mag magnesium tablets for once I was pregnant, knowing that I may not be able to stomach the taste of the liquid mag once pregnant. I was right.
  • Another note: I was advised to avoid magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate. It comes in heaps of forms and some are more bio-available than others. The ones above are good.

2. B vitamins
 The most important ones are:
  • B6, in the form of "P-5-P" is best. I got my P-5-P here.
  • B1 also known as thiamine.
  • B12 in the form of cobalamin NOT the synthetic form cyanocobalamin which many brands use and literally contains cyanide.
To get my these I took:
  • Biobalance bio-active B complex (this covered all the above forms)
  • An extra B1 supplement (I used Solgar brand. I could probably just have used the one above but wanted extra)
  • Extra folate - folic acid is compulsory for NZ preggos and I opted for the form 'folate' which is absorbed by more people. (It's complicated but see here about MTHFR gene mutation.)

3. For gut health - important.
  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil - "Blue Ice" from Green Pastures brand. Also comes in flavours and capsules. This is a superfood for your health and contains co-enzyme Q10 and vitamin K which are great for HG prep, apparently.
  • Eating fermented foods. I just bought a can of sauerkraut and forced myself to eat some most days.   
  • I also took L Glutamine occasionally as this is healing for the intestine. There are some theories that gut health is the root cause of many other problems, which can be the root cause of HG, so I was just trying to cover my bases here!

4. For the liver - also important.
Your liver is what processes your hormones and cleans your blood. I have ALWAYS mocked liver cleanses and such as it seems stupid to me - your liver's job is to clean you so why on earth is there this trend to 'cleanse' your liver?!! 
BUT, while I don't trust many 'liver cleanses' you find online I have come to realise the vital role of optimising our liver performance if you suffer from HG. We get HG because our bodies react to the excessive hormones of pregnancy - both oestrogen and Human Growth Hormone. If your liver can't keep up with processing and flushing them, you have more of these hormones in your system and therefore are more sick.

I took:
  • I attempted turmeric capsules and milk thistle capsules as these are both liver wonder foods. Most people can handle them but they made me feel really ill (constant cramps, wonky cycles, stomach upset etc) so I stopped.

5. Diet. 
I adopted a Paleo style diet that was grain free, sugar free, dairy free and refined-carb free. To be honest, once I had it going it was much easier than it sounds. The key for me was doing a grocery shop beforehand and making sure I had all the healthy alternatives I needed - I kept lots of nuts, seeds, a little dried fruit, and organic cocconut sugar on hand for emergencies! I found Danielle Walker's Against All Grain" cookbook and blog invaluable during this time. 

Again, these diets are something I was previously skeptical of (or more like, openly mocking) but after reading so many stories of people overcoming terrible conditions with it, and now my own experience of avoiding HG, I'm all for it!

6. Prayer.
I had done all this work but couldn't shake the feeling that some part of my prep was missing. One day some of the amazing women at our church offered to pray for me and, say what you like, but for me that the missing piece and made all the difference.

Also, not as important but I purchased some unscented shampoo and conditioner from Amazon!

P.S how daunting does this look!? I ordered so may supplements before figuring out those that I really needed and were best (listed above).

OKAY, Now for PART 2, once you are pregnant!

 1. Drop all liver cleanse supplements over ovulation and then once you are pregnant. Most of them are not safe for pregnancy.

2. Magnesium - continue taking in whatever form you can stomach. I bought a magnesium spray that you can spray directly to the skin and is them absorbed into the bloodstream. It works immediately to counteract nausea and is great if swallowing is tough.

3. B vitamins - continue taking. Make sure you have enough B6 (in form P-5-P) and even take this separately if you can.

4. Fermented food, probiotics - continue taking for as long as you can stomach it.

5. DOXYLAMINE SUCCINATE - (known under brand names 'Diclegis'. 'Unisom', 'Restavit' and 'Diclectin' depending where you live.) this is an anti-histamine that combats nausea IF you begin taking it from the time of a positive pregnancy test. Obviously a doctor can't prescribe you something before you even have symptoms, but this needs to be taken BEFORE the nausea begins. It builds up in your system and for many people, like me, successfully prevents the nauea taking over. You can't get doxyamine in New Zealand but there is an easy solution - buy it on Amazon. The cheapest brand I found is called "Kirklands Sleep Aid". Yes, it's also used as a sleeping pill and will make you drowsy the first week until you adapt. But IT'S WORTH IT. I was on ondansetron throughout my entire pregnancy with Ella and it stopped me vomiting as much, but didn't lower the debilitating nausea. It also has hideous side effects. For me, I have only needed doxylamine to combat nausea and vomiting this time.

6. Eat what you can. By week 6-7 I ditched the diet and ate carbs every 40 mins as that was the only thing that (combined with the supplements and doxylamine) quelled the nausea I was experiencing. 

From there on I've had a completely different pregnancy to my HG hell when pregnant with Ella. I haven't had to put my 2 yr old into full-time care, and I've been able to do normal activities.
I avoided cooking and preparing food for the first 20 weeks as that made me feel super queasy, but now at 25 weeks I can handle being in the kitchen again. My quality of life has been retained and I feel so lucky!

If you know someone who has suffered Hyperemesis or severe morning sickness please forward them here because this info is REALLY HARD TO FIND outside of the facebook support group/s. And get them to join the FB group 'Preventing Hyperemesis Gravidarum' too because it's filled with advice and empathy from hundreds of us experiencing the same thing.

Would I do anything different in a future pregnancy?
Since this experience I've heard positive things about
1) Continuing with a low-carb diet throughout the pregnancy and eating/drinking heaps of protein. I DID notice that after sugary foods I felt nauseated, but at the same time, the thought of eating low-GI foods like kumara (sweet potato) or any type of meat was also nauseating. I think *IF* I ever had another baby I would attempt to include more protein shakes. In my first pregnancy, I lived (literally) of "Up'n'Go" drinks for several weeks at a time when I could not ingest any other thing. They kept me alive and in hindsight it could be the amount of protein? Not sure.
2) Continuing with fermented foods e.g. sauerkraut through the pregnancy. I've heard people swear this helps, I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
3) Using the supplement L.Carnitine.
4) I've also seen that CoQ10 is available as a straight supplement here, if that's easier than the fermented cod liver oil. This is my favourite health brand.

Things, and stuff.

Couldn't decide whether to call this post Things, and stuff; or Stuff, and things.
My life is pretty complicated these days.......

1. THIS WEEK. How much more cray could it get (I don't dare ask). Starting with the election results on the other side of the world throwing everything and everyone into a frenzy of curse words and lengthy arguments with a healthy side of snarkiness seeing as all this happens on social media so everyone can hide behind their screen and have a good vent without needing to observe the usual convention of say, being nice to people; and finishing with flooding and earthquakes down here in little old New Zealand. AND my new nephew was born today. All the things!

2. Ever just not want to read the news ever again? I already avoid anything with the word 'toddler' in it as it's always something that makes my mummy-heart spaz out with horror/disgust/sadness/etc. Driveways, drainholes, swimming pools, ARG. But now I'm also seeing things about say, babies being hacked with machetes in Sudan while their mums and sisters are being gang-raped and it's like, how much more can our world take? (A lot, probably... we humans are pretty pro at ***ing everything up are we not.)

3.  People are so different. It's fascinating that 2 people who grew up in the same culture and communities can have VASTLY different strong opinions about the same things...and seemingly not be that different from each other in any other way. I try to remind myself that most of us are coming at our various views (political opinions etc) from a good heart, even if that manifests in completely different ways. (And honestly, sometimes with the media being SO biased towards one side I find myself asking, "What is TRUTH?!" just like Pilate before Jesus' trial and execution because I'm so deep like that... ;) )

4. After these recent big earthquakes in Wellington I would kind of like my husband never to work in his office building in town ever again in case the next big one strikes during daylight hours and you know, kills everyone. Hundreds of really tall unsturdy buildings built right on a fault line in a city that is competely isolated from the rest of the country with ONE road in and out that would be munted in a quake. Sounds just peachy. Who's with me????

[On my mind]

5. I put up our Christmas tree like a week ago. All the low-hanging fruit decorations have already been removed by my daughter to display in her 'shop'. Aka on a plastic storage box. Then she calls to me "Hey shop lady, what you like?" and if I say "Ummm could I have that candy cane decoration back please" she goes "That's 10 dollars" takes my money and then runs off with the decoration. Such a thief.

6. Ella 'reads' for like an hour a day by herself. I don't know what we did to deserve this but I'll take it. Sometimes she even says "I'm tired, I just need go to bed.... with my books" so that she can sit in her cot surrounded by all her papery belongings and bark at me "Close the door!" so she can read/rip pages in peace.

7. That girl is a sweetheart. She often says she needs to look at the baby, comes over and lifts my shirt, pats my tummy saying "Aww! it's so coot! It's in your belly button! It's not come out for a long time."

8. Speaking of 'coot' she comes clothes shopping with me and selects items off their hangers like say a pair of boring black pants and exclaims "Ohh! Dat's so coot!"

9. She sometimes calls Calum 'Daddy bear' just casually. BLESS.

10. I'm stumped. I made cookies? And they were really good? I guess that's enough of a new item to finish this list!

(And incase you missed it, our Baby News. I can't believe I've blogged twice this month already...:D )


Baby news.

So much to say, so little energy...

We're having another baby! I've been WAY less sick this time without experiencing real hyperemesis gravidarum like I did with Ella. I credit this to loads of preparation (including a strict diet and supplements etc for several months before conceiving) and lots of prayer. I found an excellent onlne support group (facebook group: Preventing Hyperemesis Gravidarum) filled with information that no obstetrician or doctor was able to give me - tried and tested by a large community of women who have been through it. But that's a detailed medical post for another day...

I'm 21 weeks now and we found out the gender at our last scan...

We let the 2 grandmothers cut the cake which was hastily whipped up that day/the night before by my mum and I (I did the coloured icing secretly tho).

Why make time-consuming icing when you could just use whipped cream :D

Calum and I found out the gender at the scan so we already knew, but it was fun to surprise our family like this and make it into a little celebration. Because once the baby is born, everyone gets to celebrate except the new parents. Am I right? How many mothers who haven't slept in 3 days, nipples are falling off and have 3rd degree tears are going round partying and eating cake? Not many if any. So it was nice to enjoy it now!

A little boy... we both were kind of in shock as we'd subconsciously assumed it would be another girl. It's exciting tho.

Ella has been the sweetest but she always is. I think we lucked out with perfect toddler with her. I can say that because now we're having a boy and I'll probably always look back on this time with just Ella as a dream, haha... During the scan she was patting my arm and asking "You're alright mummy? You're ok??" in an extra high-pitched little voice that she uses to express concern :D

Sometimes she'll lift up my top to see my belly, say "aww, it's so coot! I jus give da baby a cuddle" and put her head on it.... or yell "It's coming out da belly button!!! I can see it!"

As for how I'm feeling, currently really tired and still occasionally a bit sick. But again, nothing like with Ella where I couldn't hold anything down at all.

I spent the first trimester lying on the couch and avoiding going in the kitchen at all costs, but I could still leave the house without being terrified to drive due to projectile voming without warning at any time... so that's been nice. Starting from week 21 I've been back in the kitchen making the occasional dinner etc. It's nice to be at a stage where I can look at our brown and orange 70s kitchen and not automatically feel nausea... it's been a pretty strong trigger.

I can smell everything and it's not cool. I've started avoiding butter on bread because I can smell the fridge on the butter.... I can almost taste the contents of the fridge in it. Like, some shaved ham, leftover rice, cucumber... I can taste/smell it all on the butter on my toast. It must absorb surrounding smells but so subtly that only a pregnant women could detect it?! Gross.

I just want to eat all the dairy products right now. In lieu of butter I'm loving thick cream cheese on my bread... so good and requires no cooking at all. Then obviously milk/cream are winners. I still automatically hold my breath when I open the fridge to get stuff! I'm starting to crave fresh healthy food now that summer's coming but I feel sick without filling up on the requisite bland creamy carbs & dairy too. I still hate strong flavours and smells (pesto, garlic, herbs etc) but it doesn't actually make me spew so, winning.

How much else can I write about this?! It's flying by which is SO NICE after my last pregnancy which seemed to take years. I literally counted every day for that one... sometimes checking several times per day to see if time had moved forward any faster but nope... that's something I don't miss at all.

I'm so thankful for a miracle pregnancy and not being hospitalised and all the rest like we were prepared for!

Looking forward to having this baby here and out of my body already tho. Pregnant ladies know what I'm talkin bout...

I asked the husband to take this one again because the angle makes my belly look freakin ginormous (I'm sure it's not that huge yet...?!) but he was literally offended so... this is it :)