I hate the term “morning sickness.” I didn’t understand how much I hated it until I was pregnant, weak, and nauseous throughout the day for months with food aversions, scent aversions, and sometimes unable to keep food or even water down. Eating was difficult, but not eating was even worse. Hunger can increase the feeling of nausea in anyone, but especially pregnant women.
For the longest time in my first pregnancy, I remember being worried because I had only gained seven pounds. The doctor politely reminded me that gaining weight during pregnancy was normal, and I shouldn’t try to avoid it. But it wasn’t the weight gain I was avoiding, I would have happily put on a few more pounds. It was food; I just couldn’t eat it and then keep it down long enough to actually digest the nourishment it was supposed to offer.
This is where my hatred of the term “morning sickness” comes in.
It seems like there are one of two things pregnant women can suffer from: morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. The first ailment didn’t match what I was experiencing. This was more than light nausea in the morning. The second ailment I didn’t meet the requirements for because I hadn’t lost 5-10% of my body weight. I was nauseous, weak, dizzy, and vomiting several times a day, but I still managed to gain seven pounds more than halfway into my pregnancy. The weight gain instead of weight loss kept me out of the hospital on an IV to prevent dehydration.
What’s probably the worst part of either ailment is the lack of options for treatment. Pretty much, with either ailment, you have three different kinds of nausea medications you can take, but they have some major cons. Two have been shown to cause birth defects or harm to the fetus with excessive use and there are certain trimesters where they are not recommended at all. One is extremely expensive and insurance will refuse to pay for it, stating you can take one of the cheaper options instead. All three are sedatives and make you constantly tired, among other side effects. None of them work well, at least not for me. There is no upper level of medication you get for extreme nausea that lies somewhere between morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum. You either suffer through it, binge eating in between bouts of nausea so you can gain enough weight or you get hospitalized for dehydration and malnutrition.
If you google either ailment you see the suggestions for treatment are minimal: try eating ginger, peppermint or lemonade; eat smaller and more frequent meals; try crackers. All of these suggestions, partnered with medication that is either ineffective, extremely expensive, full of side effects, or all of the above, is just not acceptable. About 80% of women that get pregnant will experience nausea at some point in their pregnancy. That is way too many people to be affected in comparison to the response that we have available to treat these ailments. Even the term we use to describe something as broad as light nausea during the first few months of pregnancy up to debilitating nausea for several months through the pregnancy isn’t acceptable.
For now, during my second pregnancy, my best option is to take Diclegis, which came out in 2013 and was clinically tested on pregnant women and showed not to harm to the woman or baby. It’s also the one that insurance refuses to cover…and it costs $800 a month. The pharmacy was able to offer a generic version and a discount Rx card to get it down to $400. It still doesn’t work completely, so I am stuck with ginger snaps, Preggie Pops, and ginger lemonade until my due date in March.