‘The doctor said, ‘I’ve never seen a woman deal with morning sickness like you. It’s time to cut the dramatics and drink some water.’: Woman raises Hyperemesis Gravidarum awareness after life-threatening pregnancy

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“In the summer of 2020, I found myself going to the doctor because I was starting to feel ill. The reality was I had no idea I was about to fight for me and my daughter’s life for nine months. After spending around half an hour at the urgent care, my doctor shared the news of my pregnancy. It was an unexpected shock, but I was also happy. After I took a minute to process things, I called my boyfriend in and told him I was pregnant. At first, he was shocked, but just like me soon became excited at the idea of our soon-to-be little family. I found out about my pregnancy at three weeks. I thought to myself, ‘This isn’t too bad, it will soon pass.’ I thought what I was experiencing was only morning sickness and it was just hitting me earlier on in pregnancy. I was in for a very rude awakening.

I started out vomiting around 20 times a day. I thought it was a lot at the time, but I just assumed it was bad morning sickness. In just a few short weeks I was vomiting over 80 times a day. On top of this, I had already had multiple emergency room visits for dehydration. Most of the time I was not able to tolerate fluids orally; water would instantly come up. Doctors just kept telling me I had morning sickness and I had to drink more water, eat crackers or try ginger. At the time these were also suggestions I got from family members repeatedly, but nothing was working. People kept thinking I was over exaggerating and I just couldn’t handle being pregnant. At seven weeks along, I made an appointment with a nurse practitioner. I knew what I was dealing with was not ‘just morning sickness.’ After evaluating me, we learned I had already lost over twenty pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight.

Pregnant woman battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum takes photo to show weight loss during pregnancy
Courtesy of Breanna Schroeder

I was then diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum or HG. HG is a rare, life-threatening illness to the mother and baby. It affects approximately only 2% of all pregnancies. At this point in my pregnancy, I was not receiving proper treatment. I was still regularly ending up in the emergency room almost every other day with dehydration. I would tell the doctors and nurses my diagnosis of HG. Even with it, I was still not taken seriously. I would constantly receive degrading comments from the doctors and nurses who were treating me. Eventually, I was completely bedbound. Even something as simple as walking to the bathroom seemed like an impossible task most days. I had lost a devastating 36% of my body weight, or 58 pounds, in a short amount of time. My muscles began to atrophy, and my bones became weak.

Courtesy of Breanna Schroeder

I thought I had experienced the worst from medical professionals who disregarded my condition, but I was wrong. One day I had not held down anything in over 24 hours. I knew it was time for another ER trip. Shortly after I got a room, I met the doctor who would ‘treat’ me that day. He asked me why I was there, and I told him my diagnosis and current state at the time. He then told me he had never seen a woman deal with morning sickness like me. He said it was ‘time to cut the dramatics and drink some water.’ It’s hard to believe a medical professional would treat a patient that way, but it is the truth and one many HG patients know all too well. He came back later while I was signing discharge papers and told me, ‘The emergency room is for emergencies only.’ I burst into tears and left to go home.

That night, I remember my boyfriend getting home from work. I was so hopeless. I told him I didn’t think I could take another day and I cried until I fell asleep. The next day my condition had worsened. I went back into the emergency room after the nurse on-call said I needed to be seen and treated right away. When I got into triage, I was extremely tachycardic. They drew labs and had an IV put in right away. Shortly after this visit, I got my first hospital admission. During that hospitalization, my medications were changed and I was put on continuous IV fluids with banana bags. This was one of the several hospitalizations I would have. I was then put on a regular infusion schedule. My infusion nurses were the most kind, caring people I met during my pregnancy. They even threw me my baby shower! I cannot express enough gratitude towards my nurses. I spent well over a hundred days in the hospital setting during my pregnancy.

Pregnant woman battling HG sleeps in hospital bed with a mask over her face
Courtesy of Breanna Schroeder

During my battle against HG, I had 104 IVs before I had a central line (PICC) put into my heart for my fluids, medications, nutrition, and more! In addition to losing 58 pounds, I suffered multiple complications during my pregnancy. I had a ruptured esophagus that caused internal bleeding and severe anemia, my labs showed that I went through the beginning stages of organ failure, and I now have permanent heart damage from malnutrition at 19 years old. I was so depressed while I was sick, I spent almost every day in bed because of my condition. It was the most lonely experience of my entire life. No one can even begin to imagine what it’s like to spend nine months growing your child not knowing if either of you will make it. I stared at walls for months on end; whether they were in my bedroom or the hospital. There were many days I would close my eyes to go to sleep and I wondered if I would wake up the next day. There were also days I wished it would all just stop and I didn’t want to wake up the next day. The truth about HG is if you have not experienced it, there is no way to know how truly devastating it is in every way. It changes women’s lives forever.

Pregnant woman battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum rests during one of her many hospital stays
Courtesy of Breanna Schroeder

On March 16, 2021, my battle against HG came to a victorious end. After 26 hours of labor, I gave birth to my miracle baby girl at 10:30 p.m. and she weighed a healthy 7.1 pounds. What seemed to be a never-ending nightmare was finally over. She was truly the only reason I fought as hard as I did to make it to the finish line. She was the one who went through it all with her mama. My daughter is the love of my life and she is just as much of a survivor as I am. She was worth every drop of blood, every tear, and every poke I endured to get her here.

Currently, I’m a stay-at-home mom and I advocate for HG patients, survivors, and those who tragically lost their battle. I am doing much better than anyone expected; I have gained back almost all the weight I lost and my muscle atrophy has reversed well. I still have food and drink aversions, but I’m able to eat and drink normally again. I often find myself getting emotional when I think about my journey and how much I overcame to get her earth side with me. Sometimes I have difficulty processing the emotions I experience; other times it can be a very empowering and happy feeling.

Stay at home mom sits with newborn daughter on her front porch after winning her battle with rare HG
Courtesy of Breanna Schroeder

I want to end my story by saying how important it is that people become aware of this condition and take it seriously. There is a spectrum to HG; patients can either have a mild, moderate, or severe case. Just because in one pregnancy someone doesn’t have it or has a mild case, does not mean they will not have it in the next or worse. My case was very severe, but I always say all HG is bad HG. It is crucial that medical professionals educate themselves on this condition and that it is taken seriously from the beginning. Lack of proper medical treatment is what almost cost not only mine but also my daughters’ life during several complications, and there are still women who die of HG. If you are a friend or family member of someone battling currently, please also educate yourselves properly. This is not only one life, but two, and sometimes multiple lives at stake. No one deserves to go through this condition alone and isolated.

Please give your loved one as much encouragement and help you have to offer. Things like crackers, small frequent meals, and ginger are not going to help HG patients. If someone is having problems advocating for themselves, please do all you can to help others understand how serious it is, especially to medical professionals. I was so sick and weak I wasn’t able to advocate for myself properly for a long time and it cost me. That is why it is my mission now to bring awareness and advocate for those who can’t for themselves anymore. My heart goes out to every family who has lost someone to Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Lastly, if you are a survivor or currently an HG patient, know you are extraordinary for taking on this battle head-on. You are a warrior and nothing short of one. My love goes out to all my HG sisters along with your tougHGuys and tougHGirls.”

First time mom takes photo with her sleeping newborn daughter during photoshoot after surviving rare HG pregnancy
Courtesy of Breanna Schroeder
Courtesy of Breanna Schroeder

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Breanna Schroeder. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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