I found out I was six weeks pregnant on a Friday by Sunday I felt like I was getting the flu and Monday it was hard to function. I went to the doctors on Monday and was told that some women experience flu-like symptoms for a week or two so we will wait and see if it goes away. My mom and other people I spoke to later on also had experienced the ‘flu’ for a week in the beginning or two weeks max. Unfortunately after the first week I was completely immobile confined to a single bed in our guest bedroom in silence 24/7. I was nauseous all day- I couldn’t look at food, smell food, hear people talking about food or think about food (yet bizarrely I daydreamed a lot about childhood food like my favorite elementary school lunch chicken patty day with just ketchup 🙂 ). I had trouble even drinking a tiny sip of water most days. Nothing helped – ginger, ginger ale, crackers, sleep nothing. My husband tried to help by reading other women’s experiences with 24/7 nausea which claimed that chicken broth helped so he made some in the crock pot all day one Sunday and I was sooo sick just from the smell that I wasn’t able to smell roast chicken or chicken soup the rest of my pregnancy.
I could only get up to go to the bathroom and couldn’t shower or change my clothes for a week at a time because I couldn’t stand up. If I did stand up and walk to the bathroom I had to then immediately lay down on the floor on my back, bend my knees, put my hands firmly on my lower stomach and breathe very slowly and controlled to get rid of the salivating nausea sensation. Then I could slowly get up go to the bathroom then quickly walk back to my bed to lay down again to avert the nausea sensation.
After two weeks my doctor ordered blood work and we found out that the probable cause of my sickness was that my HCG (pregnancy hormone) level was high, extremely high– 220,000 mIU/ml at eight weeks 1 day and if you look at the chart below I’m at the absolute top of 7-8 weeks but some women are only at 7,650mIU/ml which is a difference of 212,350 mIU/ml which is enormous and explains why some women experience no nausea who hit their top-level at 50,000 mIU/ml and that’s it and those of us who have a HCG level over 4 times as high who can’t function.
If you are experiencing this now or may in the future no matter if it’s happening in the moment or you are talking to someone after you have recovered about your experience NO ONE and I mean that will ever understand what you went through unless they have also experienced it as well. You may even find other women brush you off, demean what happened, tell you you must not be doing something right etc, or talk about how they had morning sickness as well – which by no means is on the same level when you compare someone being able to throw-up and carry-on their day to someone who can’t even move their body lying in bed with their muscles deteriorating. It was hard for me to explain this to work or my family and friends back home who couldn’t see me everything sounded like an exaggeration. But if you had come over and seen me lying in bed with my greasy hair, smelling from not showering for days on end, looking at my pale skin and my now 15lbs lighter body, hardly able to talk then I think my experience would be more comprehensible.
High HCG levels can indicate multiple births and also molar pregnancies (a lump of cells not a baby) so I was sent for an early ultrasound to ensure it was in fact a baby and not just a non-living mass that was causing me so much sickness and time off work. It was in fact one baby and for some reason I probably genetically am prone to higher HCG levels then
normal (my body doesn’t cope well with alcohol or prescription drugs). The higher levels totally sucked because I was so ill I was off work bedridden for two months but on the positive side it meant that my baby and placenta was really healthy and I had the lowest risk of miscarriage. I was so ill that I ended up needing to go to the hospital for multiple ultrasounds and received intravenous fluids at one point. The doctors labeled me as having hyperemesis gravidarum like The Duchess Kate Middleton. I was given different medications to try and reduce the symptoms which were actually other types of medicine that happen to also help with my symptoms and other pregnant women had used in the past without issues. But they all worked for a couple days and stopped, didn’t work at all, or I didn’t want to take one I believe it’s a chemotherapy drug because of the risk of possible birth defects and I was already concerned about this because I was 35 and two of my aunts had babies around 35 with cleft lips and palettes.
How I Coped
I was officially off work laying in bed in a silent room for two months. There were days when I only ate four crackers or had one sip of water.
What I learned was that if I ate the first thing in the morning while still laying in bed I was more able to actually function i.e. get out of bed and walk around at least without collapsing. I would eat two slices of toast with jam very slowly then lay back down for 30 min or so to see if anything bad happened. Over the two months I was mainly nauseous but I also experienced vertigo and kidney stones both of which I had before I was pregnant. I also didn’t throw-up that often although I felt like I was going to 90% of the time. If I got up to go to the bathroom I often had to lay down on the floor immediately after walking into the room or right after I peed because I was so dizzy and sick. Sometimes I could just breathe really slowly while laying on my back with my knees bent and make the feeling go away while other times I would experience the salivation with the nausea and have to lay that way but forcefully push on my stomach to keep my contents down.
The handful of times I did actually puke were not fun – the one that I can remember most is when I ate a couple bites of my husbands warm dinner and I exploded like a fifth grade science volcano experiment and continued exploding violently for the next couple hours. I learned I could basically only eat cold or room temperature food the rest of my pregnancy. I also could no longer swallow my pre-natal vitamins.
- Reflexology – My midwife suggested I try this so I found a women who specializes in pregnancy reflexology in my town. I had treatments every Thursday morning for six weeks and felt the best Thursday afternoons which allowed me to eat something like a salad or sandwich, was good until Sunday afternoon and that’s when I started the cycle again with feeling the worst.
- Preggie drops – for nausea these helped a lot when I became more functional but still would have episodes that came on. I would suck on one first thing in the morning when I went back to work and kept them in my desk and car for emergencies. I had to buy Preggie drops on amazon or eBay in the UK but you can get them easily in the US at babies R Us etc.
- Eat first thing in the morning before moving – bland cereal like Rice Krispies or toast with jam
- Bland room temperature or cold food with no spices – and I mean absolutely not spices or anything on it at all! Think kid food – toast, crackers, chicken nuggets, Rice Krispies, sandwiches, salad or other food I had eaten previously and knew was safe for me to eat
- Sip and nibble– drink and chew everything super slow and wait 30 sec before taking another mouthful – you need time to see how your stomach will react and 30 sec was how fast I would feel ill after eating
- Think, visualize, prepare – before eating anything I had to first think about the food I wanted to eat, visualize what it looked like or actually see it and until then was I able to actually eat food
- Gummy pre-natal vitamins – Vitafusion pre-natal which taste great and are actually a good vitamin these were easier to chew then swallow and it doesn’t feel like you’re taking medicine – I still take them now while breastfeeding. I had to buy them from Amazon but you can find them in loads of different stores in the US.
- iPad – my iPad was my saviour and connection to anyone outside of my silent tv-less room. I used it to text people when I could actually focus on text and used my Netflix app to watch the entire series of The Office (US) – you didn’t need to concentrate, it was easy to watch 30 minutes at a time and it made me laugh which helps when you are so isolated, alone and feel like you not being able to move will never end
Let me know how you survived your first trimester or if you had 24/7 nausea as well!
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