Resources for women
We have a number of resources available for women suffering hyperemesis gravidarum and pregnancy sickness, however if there is something you would like to see in this section which would help you further please do get in touch and let us know.
Books about Hyperemesis Gravidarum
For women in the UK the new book Hyperemesis Gravidarum - The Definitive Guide by Caitlin Dean and Amanda Shortman is the complete handbook for sufferers, their partners and healthcare professionals. It contains a wealth of information about treatments available and how to access them, coping strategies and self help as well as information about recovering and trying again in the future. There is also sections for partners and family and friends as well as a significant section for healthcare professionals. It's a must have book for anyone affected by, or caring for women with, hyperemesis gravidarum. 10% of the profits come to the charity.
Caitlin Dean has written a book especially for children aged 0-11 years old. How to be an HG Hero! enables children to understand what is happening in their world and how they can take a proactive approach as a member of the family “team”.
For women in the USA the book Beyond Morning Sickness: Battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum by Ashli Foshee McCall is an excellent resource with a wealth of information about the treatments and care available there.
Ashli has also produced a book for children whose mother is now suffering to help them understand and make sense of the experience. It is called Mama Has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (But Only For A While) and is a useful resource for parents going through subsequent pregnancies.
Ashli's most recent book The Chronicles of Nausea: A Diary of Hyperemesis Gravidarum is an account of her battle to have her daughter and provides hope and inspiration to women around the globe struggling to survive the extreme end of the spectrum of pregnancy sickness.
We often share real-life experiences of NVP & HG on our Social Media platforms in the hope that sufferers and survivors will feel less isolated and alone. We hope that by sharing others experiences it will help sufferers to talk about what they are going through and get the help and support needed as well as raising awareness of the condition.
Click the photos to read more
Michelle Owen - Sky Sports News broadcaster & presenter shares her experience of Hyperemesis Gravidarum
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National Telephone Counselling Service for Pregnancy Sickness
September 2016 sees the launch of Hyperemesis Counselling, the UK’s first specialist telephone counselling service for women affected by any degree of pregnancy sickness.
Set up by BACP Registered and Accredited Counsellor, Michelle Nicholson, herself a two times pregnancy sickness survivor, the service offers professional psychotherapeutic support to women, their partners and carers who are currently living with or recovering from this debilitating medical condition.
“Women affected by pregnancy sickness have been under-supported for too long” says Michelle.
“Counselling can provide a safe, contained, supportive space for women at any stage of suffering or recovery from pregnancy sickness, to express and make sense of their thoughts and feelings, and it can leave them with an enhanced sense of their suffering being acknowledged and understood. The aim of Hyperemesis Counselling is to reduce isolation, alleviate distress, increase support and promote healing, thus enabling women to move forward with their lives with increased self-awareness, coping strategies and emotional wellbeing.”
Pregnancy sickness can be an emotional as well as a physical lived experience. It can leave women feeling anxious, depressed, powerless and struggling to function or cope. Emotional recovery can be an ongoing process continuing after dissipation of physical symptoms into the post-partum period and beyond.
Hyperemesis Counselling provides women with an opportunity to access professional psychotherapeutic support by telephone from a counsellor specialising in pregnancy sickness care, from anywhere in the UK.
Further details of the new service can be found at www.hyperemesiscounselling.co.uk.
Planning for an HG Pregnancy
If you've suffered hyperemesis gravidarum before then, unlike with regular pregnancy sickness which can differ in each pregnancy, the chances are you will suffer again. Therefore planning and preparation is key to reducing the impact of the condition, particularly if you now have small children at home.
If your previous pregnancy ended with loss, either through termination or miscarriage it is important you take time to grieve and come to terms with the loss before heading back into a tough nine months. Also if there is trauma or anxiety remaining from the previous pregnancy then take time to recover and seek help with this before moving onto another one.
There is good evidence that the early, pre-emptive, use of a B6 (pyridoxine) Supplement and antihistamine (such as Promethazine or Cyclizine) is effective for preventing the deterioration which results in hospital admission. Speak to your GP about using this treatment if you have suffered Hyperemesis Gravidarum in the past. A recent study found a significant decrease in severity of HG if treatment was started BEFORE symptoms start compared to started when symptoms first appear. Read the research or to print off for you doctor.
We have produced three documents which may help you to prepare for another HG pregnancy, which you can download. The first is a worksheet for you to work through, perhaps with your partner to think about your previous experience and to think about the future pregnancy. The second is about making a detailed plan to help you work through with your GP/Consultant; however, it is fairly long and many doctors may dismiss it because of that so the third document is a sample care plan with boxes to tick and so on, which can then be tweeked and adjusted during your appointment and each section agreed on with your doctor. This last document can then go into your Patient Held Maternity notes and a copy can be scanned for your GP/hospital notes so that all the doctors in your practice can access it and so on. Please click on the links below for the documents:
This document helps you to reflect on your previous pregnancy to work out what worked, what didn't and what you could do differently this time.
This document helps you to work through the document below and gives you the references and information needed to discuss the plan with your doctor
This care plan is designed to use with your GP or consultant; it is "doctor friendly", in a format they will hopefully recognise and respond to. Your midwife may find it helpful too.
Other tips for preparing for a difficult pregnancy:
- Childcare is crucial! Whether it is through friends and family or formal childcare with a nursery, child-minder or nanny it is important that you are able to rest and concentrate on staying hydrated and nourished as much as possible.
- Prepare meals for the freezer. Whilst planning your pregnancy get as many meals in the freezer as possible so that your family can cope without you preparing a meal every day.
- Stock up on drinks/foods you like and were able to tolerate last time.
- Get support! contact our support network in advance so that we are ready to support you when the time comes. Also join our forum, we have a whole section for women preparing and trying again!
- Get in shape; although it may be helpful to have a little 'extra' to lose when the sickness strikes, it is also important that you are fit and ready to deal with the rigours of a difficult pregnancy.
- Contact your GP, Midwife and any other professionals that will be involved. Explain that you want a plan in advance, discuss what worked and didn't work last time, give permission for husband/relatives to discuss care if applicable and get a baseline weight documented.
If you would like to speak to someone who has been through an HG pregnancy more than once then please contact us. For more information on preparing for pregnancy see our conference paper Preparation for the hyperemesis pregnancy
Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Mental Health
There has been much speculation about the causes of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Following Freud’s psychodynamic theory, many doctors attempted to apply his theory to women with HG. It was argued that the sickness is an unconscious rejection of the foetus – the woman is trying to throw the foetus up. A whole range of other psychological explanations followed, such as negative relationships with the mother, a broken home during childhood, marital problems, excessive attachment to the mother, anxiety, hysteria, depression, sexual dysfunction, personality disorders, low I.Q., immaturity, low self-esteem, poor coping skills and stress. These psychological factors were commonly cited in academic papers as a cause for HG from the 1920s to the 1990’s.
It was because of these theories that the illness was not taken seriously, and “treatment” could be very harsh. It was not uncommon for women to be denied a vomit bowl, left to clean her own vomit and be presented with food regularly. Even today, at Pregnancy Sickness Support we still hear reports of women being told that their illness is because they are anxious.
We now know that psychological factors are not the cause of HG but the result. The woman experiences prolonged suffering of continuous, unrelenting nausea and vomiting; which can be violent, painful and unpredictable. She may be isolated for months in bed with only minutes a day of company from her partner who is at work the rest of the time or caring for other children. She may be unable to read, speak on the phone, watch TV or gain any respite from focusing on the crippling nausea, the humiliation that comes when vomiting results in urinating on the floor or in her bed or the knowledge she hasn’t showered in weeks.
It has been said that HG robs the woman of an important life event. Instead of joy and happiness expected during pregnancy, she experiences misery and anxiety. It is not surprising that these symptoms affect the mental health of women. It is a trauma and a loss, and we know that trauma and loss are significant factors in a range of mental health issues.
We know that women who experience HG are more likely to have depression and anxiety before birth. There is also a body of research that suggests an increased risk of poor mental health following birth, especially depression. From our experience of working with NVP and HG sufferers, we have found that some women also experience PTSD-like symptoms.
Coping with poor mental health
During pregnancy ensure the woman has as much support as possible – both practical and emotional. See the other sections of our site for advice. She needs to be able to rest and relax without feeling guilty. If she is experiencing significant mental health problems then mention it to the GP. Some women have sought counselling and other psychological therapies. However, because she is so ill this may not be effective or welcome.
Following the birth, then it is important to seek help for any mental health issues. Below are some links to organisations that may be able to help. If the GP or midwife is helpful then ask for a referral to a local service. Most GP practices should be able to refer her for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Post-natal depression tends to be well recognised and supported these days and the woman will hopefully be met with empathy and kindness. Ask your partner to help explain things. Above all, get help.
Coping with Trauma
Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and Hyperemesis Gravidarum can be very traumatic. It can put a severe physical and mental stress on a woman and those around her. The suffocation sensation that comes with unrelenting retching or vomiting can be quite traumatic, almost tortuous. Relationships can be strained. Women experiencing NVP or HG can feel a loss of control, as their lives turn upside down and are unable to care for themselves for a long period of time.
The fear, helplessness, and horror of HG may trigger traumatic symptoms, such as flashbacks, intrusive images, nightmare, numbness, depression, and a tendency to feel withdrawn. These symptoms can continue for some time after the baby is born.
Research shows that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can help with trauma. The below techniques may help you.
- Give yourself permission to look after yourself and to try to find a few moments for you.
- Try to process your experience by writing about it or painting an image of your experience. It is important to write in the first person and present tense to help you capture as much detail as possible. You will need time and space to do this.
If your traumatic symptoms persist, seeking professional help from a fully trained CBT therapist may be beneficial. A good website for finding a CBT therapist is the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (see below for web address).
Sources of information and support
The Royal College of Psychiatrists have some information on their web site
The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is a coalition of UK organisations committed to improving the mental health and wellbeing of women and their children in pregnancy and the first postnatal year. Their web site is:
For more serious mental health issues, the UK Postpartum Psychosis Network has some useful resources.
Mind is a national charity supporting all mental health issues. They can provide help in a crisis and give further advice about help local to you. - http://www.mind.org.uk/
Black Dog Tribe is a social networking platform for people with a mental health condition. They offer support and help and a safe community. http://blackdogtribe.com/
In the South West the Angela Harrison Trust provides support, information and education about peri- and post natal depression. http://www.help4mums.org
For private counselling, you could find a registered counsellor through the Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Here is the link to their directory: http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk/therapists/
British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies
Remember also you can get in touch with women who have been through similar experiences via our forumwhere there is a section about life after hyperemesis gravidarum.
Stop Telling us to take Ginger for HG
Ginger as an antiemetic is common knowledge.
Women are told repeatedly by almost everyone in their lives to try ginger - only 3 women had not been told. Most women (60%) were told more than 20 times. 88% of respondants had tried ginger.
I Could Not Survive Another Day
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a severe form of pregnancy sickness. It causes unbearable, protracted physical suffering and has a catostrophic impact on quality of life.
In partnership with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) Pregnancy Sickness Support examined the main drivers for terminations in pregnancies complicated by HG to examine what more can be done to improve care for women in this situation and better support for their choice.
"I've found having a peer supporter really useful. A few texts seems like such a small thing, but it’s meant a lot to know I’m not alone and that there is someone that I can speak to, who has been through it themselves"
Did you know?
Some women experienced suicidal thoughts after feeling isolated, depressed, anxious and unable to care for themselves and their families
You are not aloneIf you think you are suffering from HG please call us for support on: 024 7638 2020
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You can support the vital work of Pregnancy Sickness Support by making a donation
"HG has been a very isolating experience, when i called the helpline i felt listened to for the first time. It gave me the confidence to go back to my Midwife and ask for further help."