Is it too dramatic to say that I have PTSD? Probably and I probably don’t have PTSD but certainly there are symptoms.
The Canadian Mental Health Association defines PTSD as happening after trauma and trauma is defined as something that is ‘frightening, overwhelming and causes a lot of distress’.
HG was certainly all three of those. For those of you who don’t know, HG is debilitating nausea and vomiting in pregnancy that, I assure you, is far worse than morning sickness. People and babies can die from HG. They require IV hydration. They become depressed. They are bed ridden. They can require hospitalization for their entire pregnancy.
My HG journey wasn’t as bad as some people’s but it was still pretty awful.
For me, it started when I was 6 weeks pregnant. I began to feel horrendously ill and I felt relieved initially, thinking that it meant this baby was a sticker and that I wouldn’t be having a chemical pregnancy this time round.
After two days I could no longer work and I could no longer eat to stave off the nausea. I required sleep all of the time. I went to the walk in centre and they prescribed one diclectin tablet – a slow acting medication – at night before bed so that I felt less sick in the morning.
The next morning I woke up and felt a bit better and thought hurrah! No more sickness. By midday I started to vomit and then that was it. Over the next two days it got worse until I got to the point where I burst the blood vessels in my eyes and actually cried tears of blood.
On top of the sickness, nausea and constant fatigue I now had swollen, dry eyes that were painful to look through. I went to my family GP who upped my diclectin to 8 tablets per day. It didn’t work. I was sleeping for 18 hours a day and when I was not sleeping I was lying on the sofa listlessly, trying not to move, unable to watch TV or talk or use my phone or knit or read because all of these things would make me vomit. Needless to say I couldn’t eat or drink.
I returned to the doctor and he gave me zofran, a drug given to chemotherapy patients, but it didn’t work and I felt even more tired on top of the nausea. At the height of it, I was vomiting 20 times a day. I lost 12 lb in the first trimester of pregnancy.
I went into hospital and they told me to take three higher strength zofran tablets a day. They gave me IV fluids because I was so dehydrated.
Concerned, Mum came to stay with me from England. She cleaned the house (I had been unable to) and helped me brush my hair, which was a big break through as for about 6 weeks I hadn’t been able to brush my hair. I had only managed to bathe once every few weeks. Mum said that when she first hugged me I smelt like someone who hadn’t bathed for a while 😆.
I injured my throat with the constant throwing up and acid burn meant I couldn’t swallow so I had to lie with a cup to gather saliva. I was given ranitidine for the acid. Benedryl for the salivation and gravol for when I had thrown up my medication, to help get me back on track.
Like so many others, well meaning people would say, ‘oh, I had morning sickness when I was pregnant, drink ginger ale etc etc’. Yet I couldn’t drink anything! I would have told them where to go had I been less weak.
I remember reading about people with HG suffering from depression and I would wonder how people could feel anything because I felt like nothing. Nobody. All I felt like was this illness. Sick was an emotion to me and I couldn’t see any way past it and I couldn’t imagine a time when I wouldn’t be sick. Every day was an eternity and sleep was (normally but not always) a blessed relief.
When I woke up there would be moments when I felt normal. I would lie there in bed, willing myself not to move – even if I had an itch – because I knew what it would trigger.
When I needed to throw up I would wail and scream like someone about to be tortured because of the pain I knew I would have in my throat.
In retrospect, I don’t think my HG was actually treated properly. There are a lot of things I would do differently now that I know more, the biggest thing being that I would have gone to hospital more and asked for an IV. Hydration, aside from staving off the terrible effects of dehydration on both you and your baby, can actually stop you from feeling sick.
People would tell me how dangerous the medications were for the baby but what else could I do? I had been so healthy before pregnancy, in preparation for pregnancy but now I found it hard to care. Found it hard to care for the life inside me.
So- yeah, it was traumatic.
The National Institute of Mental Health states that to be diagnosed with PTSD you have to experience:
At least one re-experiencing symptom
At least one avoidance symptom
At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
At least two cognition and mood symptoms
I do re-experience HG. Constantly. I think about it during the daytime mostly. There are a lot of triggers – coughing, foods or drinks or smells, music, places and people all remind me. To begin with, I was relieved it was over but over time it has come back more and more.
The hall at school, my old street, apple juice, the TV show ‘The Detectorists’ – I can no longer be near these things because sometimes it makes me want to be sick. Even thinking about it just now made me feel ill.
I never want to go through that again. I know that the chances of it happening again are high were I to get pregnant again – around 80%. I love Iris – she was so very worth it and another child would be worth it too and I feel I owe her a sibling but the fact is that my body is not made for carrying babies and I am not sure that I could put myself through it again. The thought of it scares me.
I said if I was blessed with one child, though I wanted a houseful, I would be content. I am sure that is still true. Iris fills our lives – our cups are brimming – but I am not sure I would forgive myself if I didn’t at least try to give her a sibling.
I can’t imagine not having my brothers and sisters. At the end of the day they are the only people with you from the beginning until the end. I want that kind of love and support for Iris. I want her to know what that feels like.
But first…I have this barrier to overcome. I am not saying it is PTSD and I know some folk have had it far worse than me. But it was traumatic and it has created a barrier.
I think that I did have PTSD after being held up at knifepoint in an armed robbery. I couldn’t be around people holding knives after, I stopped being able to watch scary films and I started reacting very strongly to people jumping out on me and that sort of thing. I still do all of those things now.
This is different to that but now I need to find a way to overcome what I went through and to make a plan for if it happens again because that thought is terrifying.