"Hyperemesis gravidarum landed me in ICU"
Lara Stroud shares her experience of extreme vomiting in three pregnancies and losing her first pregnancy in this story of pain and perseverance.

From a reader:

"I first fell pregnant about four months after I got married. My husband, Allan, and I were shell-shocked. We were always of the opinion that we didn't need to have children and didn't care if we had any.

They were cute, but we didn't really yearn for them. We were content with the nieces and nephews we already had - at the time, there were 12. We were happy buying them gifts, spending time with them and then handing them over to their parents.

After the shock subsided, we were okay with the idea. We started to get a little excited, although we were worried too.

Having such a big family, I was comfortable with babies and I knew about morning sickness. My brother and his wife stayed with us when she was first pregnant and she had terrible morning sickness. I was naïve, I thought my morning sickness would be light and by week 12 it would disappear instantly. Everything would be perfect.

We excitedly shared our news with everyone. We were all excited at the thought of having a baby in the house.

Reality soon set in

"First signs of morning sickness appeared around six weeks. One morning I woke up feeling sick to my core - shivering, shaking and barely able to brush my teeth.

During my lunch break, I walked to the local supermarket to stock up on ginger biscuits, ginger beer - basically anything ginger.

For the days that followed, I struggled, trying every cure for morning sickness I could find. 

During my lunch hours, I would drag myself to the office boardroom, put my head down on the table and try to sleep, escape the misery for at least an hour.  

After a few days of this, I told my boss that I had to go home early. Luckily, he understood. 

Doctor difficulties

"My sister scheduled an appointment with her gynaecologist. He was a horrible doctor; he didn't know any better about most things, least of all what was happening to me, but I had to trust him. The first thing he told me was: 'you’re not sick my girl, you’re just pregnant.' He prescribed anti-nausea medication and sent me home.

Two days after that, I was admitted to hospital for severe dehydration. I will never forget the ER doctor, it's like her blonde hair shone like a halo. This was when I first heard of the term hyperemesis gravidarum – 'excessive vomiting during pregnancy'.

The ER doctor held my hand; she explained what was happening and why I was so sick. Finally someone out there had a solution.

The nurses wheeled me to my room, reassured me that all would be okay. They gave me several warm bean bags so I could stop shivering so violently. After the drip was inserted and my teeth stopped rattling, Allan and my mom left.

After a few days, I was discharged. The throwing up had stopped and I was eating normally. Allan fetched me and we went home, cautiously optimistic that all was well. We were wrong.


"After 3 days, the vomiting returned and it was possibly worse than before. I had two more hospital stays, but each time it returned vigorously.

We lost our baby.

I remember coming out of the theatre and the first face I saw was Allan's. He had tears in his eyes as he fed me apricot yogurt. He and I shared that sorrow together and he held my hand as I took my cousin’s call and told her the news.

We went home the next day. We stopped at Hout Bay beach and bought ice-cream. I sat on the sand while he walked along the shoreline and stared out to sea.

I think I felt like we had finally grown up, but what a horrible way to do so. 

Sharing the joy of that new spark of life, the awful struggle and eventually, the loss of that precious baby who would never get to be our firstborn was heartbreaking.

It bound us together all that more firmly though.

The next pregnancy

"After a few weeks, when our bruised hearts had slightly healed, we had gotten back to normal life. I started to do research on HG and the stories of the countless women who experienced what I experienced gave me hope. It also made me angry at the ignorant gynaecologist who brushed my illness off and those who said it was  'all in my head' and to 'buck up'. 

As time went by, Allan and I realised what we almost had and we decided we desperately want to be parents.

I fell pregnant again and being a sucker for punishment, I went back to the same gynaecologist. He hadn't changed one bit.

I had exactly the same symptoms - nausea and vomiting up to 30 times a day. I had countless hospital stays, but my family kept me strong throughout. 

After about five months, I was beyond thrilled when it started to ease off. I had the usual aches and pains, but I bore these burdens with a smile and a wave.

My son, Kieran, arrived a day early. After a long labour, I needed an emergency C-section. Kieran was an easy baby; he was healthy, happy and we fell in love with his gorgeous soul as soon as we laid eyes on him.

Research and a realisation

"Fast forward 8 years and I managed to pluck up the courage to do it again. This time was much better. 

Over the years, I had done extensive research on HG. I read up on the medication used - what worked, what didn't work and the side effects of each one. I found a new gynaecologist, told him about my history and what medication I though might work. He listened. We discussed it and he did some research of his own. He called me the same afternoon and agreed with me. Oh joy! 

I started taking the medication - 16 various tablets each night. I started feeling sick quite early on, but no throwing up. During this pregnancy, I only really threw up about four times.

I was terribly nauseous, had that “whole body sick” feeling all the time and gagged several times a day, but I was coping. I ate constantly and am pleased to say I was quite a big girl by the time I gave birth. 

My birth experience was totally different. Allan and I were chatting away happily when they announced we should be camera ready, because baby was about to come out.  Reilly arrived kicking and screaming in rage and stole our hearts. 

The tradition in my big, crazy family is all the women are on stand-by in the waiting room while the mom is in theatre. They were there to welcome Reilly to this world and see us both when I was wheeled out.

My road through HG presented me with two of the most challenging tasks I have ever undertaken, but it also brought me to my boys, my true joy in the world and I can't imagine a day without them in our lives.

I can push through anything

"This journey has made me strong; strong enough to know that I can push through anything, but above all, it has united Allan and me.

When someone you know is suffering, don't tell them to buy ginger biscuits. Don't tell them pregnancy is a condition, not an illness and don't tell them to 'buck up'!

Many sufferers choose to terminate their desperately wanted pregnancies, simply because they cannot go on. Please do not cast judgement on them, because many women have suffered more than most people could endure."

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