Coping Strategies

Rest. The mantra of the HG sufferer is rest rest rest!  HG is an episodic condition with frequent periods of recovery and relapse. The temptation when you do feel better is to rush to catch up with the jobs that you couldn't do when you were too ill, but this is a sure-fire way to cause a relapse. Don't think you're somehow a wimp because you can't so much as do a bit of housework before having to take to your bed again, this is absolutely classic and most HG sufferers will recognise this. If it's your first baby, just lie on the sofa and enjoy not vomiting for a change. If you have children, do everything in your power to sort out childcare - rely on relatives, nurseries and friends. Don't feel guilty about needing help, you are very ill and you would not be expected to carry on regardless if you were undergoing treatment that causes similar symptoms such as chemotherapy. The house may be a tip, there may be a washing mountain and the kids/your partner/work may have to fend for themselves for a while but if you push yourself your vomiting will get worse. If you have HG you need to give yourself a break and know that normal service is not applicable.

Avoiding Triggers of Nausea

At all costs avoid triggers of nausea. Strong aversions to various foodstuffs and food smells are common in most if not all women suffering HG. For some the slightest thing will trigger nausea, including even the sight of food or hearing someone talking it. Many women find that once they have thrown up a certain food, they cannot bear the sight of it again until the HG improves. For some women an aversion can have such a strong association that they still cannot eat certain things even after the pregnancy. Cooking smells are often unbearable so avoid cooking as much as possible and make sure that windows are open and you are far from the kitchen while it is going on. 

Avoiding Dehydration

Avoid becoming dehydrated. If you can't tolerate drinks, try sucking ice cubes made of juices, or sipping very slowly through a straw. See Eating advicefor more suggestions of ways to take fluids. If this doesn't work, then be prepared for a hospital admission, don't try to fight it - if the GP says you need to be admitted you must go. A drip and having antiemetics injected can give you days/hours of respite that are so important not only to your physical welfare but your mental well being too.

Coping Emotionally

Avoid thinking ahead more than the next few days. Torturing yourself with 'I have 20 weeks of this left to go' is not helpful. Lying alone in bed or on the sofa can be boring and depressing. Get yourself some DVDs of your favourite TV shows or films, preferably comedy to try to lift your mood. If watching TV makes you nauseous, try radio or get some talking books. If you have friends who can come over for a while and just be around it will help a lot with the lonlieness and isolation that many sufferers feel. If you are ok to talk on the phone, call friends who are at home during the day and can spare you time for a chat. If you would like a call from someone who has had HG and knows exactly what you are going through, see UK Sufferers Support Network

Some women have found self hypnosis to be helpful for coping with the mental burden of their symptoms, ask your GP if they know of a medical hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapy is sometimes used to help women through labour so your midwife may know of a practitioner. See Alternative Remedies for more information about hypnotherapy.

Practical Tips - HG survival kit

During periods when you are able to get out and about, an HG preparation bag is useful for getting through the day. There are two main aims, first to avoid vomiting, second to cope with it if you can't avoid it.

  • To tackle the first aim, you should always carry something to eat with you. What this is will depend on what you are able to eat at the time but suggestions include bananas, cereal bars, nuts, dried fruit, bread, crackers, peanut butter sandwiches and crisps. Often you will spend most of the time too nauseated to eat, then hunger will strike very quickly. This is your window of opportunity to eat something and if you miss it, you may well be unable to eat anything again for the rest of the day. Your normal pattern of hunger at mealtimes will probably disappear so you won't be able to wait for set breaks such as lunchtime, or you may find that you can't eat at lunch but become ravenous well before the next scheduled break. If this is a problem at work, you should speak to your employer about allowing you to eat at your workplace or take breaks as it suits you. Missing out on food during your hunger window can bring on a relapse which may see you incapacitated for days afterwards and can make you so nauseous that you throw up on an empty stomach, so it is very important to always have food to hand. 
  • Sudden vomiting is a hazard of HG so it is advisable to be prepared. You may not always be somewhere with a toilet or sink, or you may vomit while on the way there. Some women have an HG emergency kit that they carry around with them. This includes a bag for the vomit (tried and tested suggestions are airline type paper bags and jiffy bags), wipes, tissues, plastic bags for disposal and a bottle of water for mouth rinsing afterwards. Unpleasant though sudden vomiting is, cleaning up the car/carpet/office just adds to the misery and leaves a smell which may make you more likely to be sick later. Being prepared can help you retain a sense of control over your situation as well as minimise unpleasantness and embarrassment.