December 8 2013 Latest news:
Emma Edwards from Halvergate with her seven month old son Adam. Emma suffered with Hyperemesis when she was pregnant and has now gone on to help others affected by pregnancy sickness. Photo: Steve Adams
Friday, December 7, 2012
Hyperemesis gravidarum has been in the news this week after the Duchess of Cambridge was treated for the condition. Emma Harrowing talks to new mum Emma Edwards about how extreme sickness made her pregnancy a horrific experience.
Morning sickness often occurs during the first few weeks of pregnancy. It is a tiring and inconvenient time, but imagine if you were sick for up to 40 times a day for 245 days of your pregnancy.
When Kate Middleton was taken to hospital this week with severe morning sickness some may have joked that she should just get on with it like every other mum-to-be. Yet for 31-year-old Emma Edwards from Acle, the news struck an emotional cord.
“During the first few weeks of my pregnancy I was sick 20-40 times a day,” says Emma. “Nothing would stay in me. I would eat an ice cube and seconds later bring it straight up again. Even the mention of food made me vomit. The insomnia, unrelenting sickness and my weakening state led to me sleeping downstairs. I was physically unable to climb stairs. The doctors tried several types of anti sickness medication but I was unable to keep the tablets in my system.”
Emma was finally admitted to hospital suffering from dehydration and spent a week attached to a drip.
“After leaving the hospital I only lasted a week at home before the sickness worsened and I was readmitted,” says Emma. “By then I had lost two stone in weight. I was put onto medication that is usually used for chemotherapy patients. Throughout my entire pregnancy I was to take a minimum of eight tablets a day.”
Emma was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of pregnancy sickness with unrelenting and excessive nausea and vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids. The condition is rare and is said to only affect one per cent of women, but it can be fatal to mother and baby without treatment.
“It took a while for me to be diagnosed and the misunderstanding that it was ‘just’ morning sickness made the condition harder to deal with,” says Emma. “It’s a debilitating and all consuming condition. Even when the sickness was under control I felt dizzy all the time and was left confined to the couch. My sense of smell was so heightened that I could not stand the smell of my own husband and couldn’t go near him without vomiting. The isolation I felt was unbearably hard. If I was a few minutes late with my medication I would vomit. I couldn’t cope with noise, light, heat or movement. The only thing I could do was lay still and wait. This state went on for months.
“I was unable to enjoy my pregnancy and became dependent on my family and medication to keep me alive.”
The worst was yet to come. At 39 weeks Emma was admitted to hospital with pre-eclampsia. With her and her baby at risk, she was induced. “Throughout my labour I was still being sick and I even started vomiting blood,” says Emma. “I kept losing consciousness in between the vomiting and the contractions.”
In May this year Emma gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Adam. Just after the birth she stopped vomiting and could even have a glass of water without being ill.
“My baby boy was worth every second of hyperemesis,” says Emma. “It’s amazing to think he survived such a difficult pregnancy, as many babies don’t.
“I still have the scars from having the condition. Being bed ridden for most of the nine months means that my muscles don’t work that well. I also still have several food and smell aversions and the psychological scars of the condition will take a long time to diminish.”
With royalty suffering from the same condition, awareness of hyperemesis means that many women should get the help and support they need. And Emma is determined to help other mums-to-be who are going through the same experience she did.
“I am now a support worker for the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support,” says Emma. “Through fundraising the charity will be able to continue to give information and support to sufferers, provide resources to inform and educate doctors and health care professionals, and encourage further research into the condition.
“If it wasn’t for the support of this charity and of my amazing family I would not have got through the darkest days.”
In August last year Emma raised money for Pregnancy Sickness Support by walking the 35 miles along Wherryman’s Way between Norwich and Yarmouth.
“The walk took place on August 31, which is a special day for me as this was the last day of ‘normal life’ before the hyperemesis started the year before.
“I was pregnant for 39 weeks and four days and 35 weeks of this time I suffered from Hyperemesis. It certainly isn’t bad morning sickness.”
For more information about Hyperemesis visit pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk