‘I Needed Something More’

It’s 4:00 a.m. and she can’t sleep.

She’s also exceptionally dehydrated after a day filled with incessant vomiting.

She’s constantly in a state of nausea. And it’s not the type of nausea that can be a little annoying after a ride on a roller coaster. It’s the type of nausea that makes you hesitant to leave the yard, house or bedroom.

She’s crying a lot and feels guilty about pretty much everything. About going on sick leave, about the perceived strain she’s putting on the people she loves and about the thoughts she’s had about being pregnant. Thoughts she didn’t believe she would ever have.

This is not morning sickness. This is not just a couple of rough days. This is Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and Jennifer knows it all too well.

“There is lots of awareness around postpartum depression,” says Jennifer, 34. “But there is not lot awareness about the issues that can impact you during pregnancy.”

HG is defined as excessive vomiting in pregnancy that can leave women feeling exhausted, stressed, depressed and unable to enjoy pregnancy. The reality of HG is often so separate from the expectation of pregnancy that expectant mothers feel isolated and become withdrawn.

Jennifer, who experienced mental health issues during her teenage years, was concerned that she would be prone to postpartum depression after her son was born. However, the possibility of struggling with HG during pregnancy was not something she considered. 

“At first it was just physical and I pushed through it,” says Jennifer, who works as a Senior Therapist delivering the Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI) program to children with autism. “I was literally (vomiting) all of the time and then couldn’t sleep at night. In the middle of night is when I had my darkest thoughts.”

Jennifer, who was diagnosed with HG early in her pregnancy, was steered toward Ontario Shores by her midwife. After attending the Prompt Care Clinic, she was admitted into the hospital’s Women’s Clinic.

“I have a supportive partner who was tremendous through out,” says Jennifer. “But I needed something more.”

At the Women’s Clinic, it didn’t take long for the tide to turn.

“I would say I noticed a difference almost instantly,” she says. “Just by sharing my experience and their knowledge of it, my concerns were alleviated.”

A combination of medication and one-on-one therapy assisted Jennifer in her recovery and helped prepare her for the birth of her son.

“I have been doing OK,” she says while her six-week-old son naps. “I think knowing that they are there to support me has helped a lot.”

During her recovery, Jennifer frequented a Facebook group of women who struggle with HG. That support and the care she has received from Ontario Shores has inspired her to share her story. 

“Because there was a physical element to my illness I don’t think I felt the stigma as much and that is wrong,” she says matter-of-factly. “Reading stories of other people’s experiences helped me. I hope to do the same for others.”