“Vomiting non-stop made my pregnancy a living hell”

Instead of enjoying her pregnancy, severe morning sickness turned Thilaga Linggam’s life into a nightmare…

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“A few months after our son Yuvaraj turned 4, my husband and I were super-excited to find that we were pregnant again. We couldn’t have been happier to expand our family.

Since the pregnancy was a total surprise to us, the first symptom that made me suspect I might be preggers was the nausea. It started at around four weeks. During this time, I also noticed that my urine had a very weird smell. It was strong and pungent.

During our visit to the gynae to confirm the pregnancy at five weeks, I highlighted my symptoms to her and she was said it was normal. I was prescribed anti-vomiting pills. We left the doctor’s office excited for the future.

Although the nausea continued, after suffering morning sickness for five months with my first baby, I wasn’t expecting anything else.

However, the nausea started getting worse as the days went by. It plagued me the entire day. The worst were the mornings ― I would vomit right after using the toilet and one more time after brushing my teeth. It became a daily morning ritual for me and I started to dread waking up.

Since, I was still able to eat simple meals I hung in there. I kept telling myself it was just a bad case of the morning sickness, which would soon pass. My mother mentioned that she went through something similar, so it had to be normal I thought. I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent but I still went to work and took care of Yuvaraj.

“At my lowest point I remember feeling depressed and wondering if the pregnancy was worth it. I was feeling very bad and the end was nowhere in sight.”

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, week seven rolled in and made me change my mind.

At this point, I had lost count the number of times a day I’d spent throwing up. I couldn’t keep anything down, not even water. I didn’t have much of an appetite but knew I had to eat something to nourish my baby. So, I forced myself to eat small portions of healthy snacks like bananas and dried apricots and prunes.

Nothing stayed down. Although this was two years ago, I can still remember how those dried fruit tasted when they came up. At this point, I just couldn’t bear the thought of putting anything in my mouth anymore, but that didn’t stop the retching. I was vomiting bile because my stomach was empty.

I felt weak, tired and sick all the time. I couldn’t go into the office anymore and sadly, I wasn’t even able to take care of my son. I stayed in bed four days straight. Besides bathroom breaks and mealtimes, I spent every other minute in bed. Thank goodness my parents were able to take care of Yuvaraj.

At my lowest point, I remember feeling depressed and wondering if the pregnancy was worth it. I was feeling very bad and the end was nowhere in sight! I had no idea how long this phase would last. I didn’t even know what it was! It was a very trying time for me, to say the least.

 


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Besides feeling weak all the time I was also dizzy and running a high fever. I was feeling parched and the extent of my dehydration could literally be seen from my shrivelled-up skin.

After seeing me suffer for four days, my husband decided it was time for me to see a doctor. When he took me to the emergency department at KKH one evening, I was quickly ushered into a waiting room, which had a bed for me to rest on while I waited for the doctor.

I was hooked up to an IV to help replenish all the water I had lost in my body. The IV had vitamin B6 in it, which was supposed to help ease my nausea.

As helpful as it was in making me feel a bit better, I still ended up vomiting all over the waiting room. When he saw that, the doctor decided to admit me for observation for a night.

I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum. Not only was it a mouthful, but it was the first time I had even heard of that condition. The doctor said it’s a severe case of morning sickness that plagued a small percentage of pregnant women.

“I remember the nurses telling me that this condition was my body’s way of telling me that the baby was doing well.”

Hyperemesis gravidarum is closely linked to the increase in hCG levels, the pregnancy hormone that keeps the foetus thriving. The more hCG your body produces, the healthier your growing foetus will be. I remember the nurses telling me that this condition was my body’s way of telling me that the baby was doing well.

I stayed in the hospital for a day and a half. I was only able to eat dry biscuits and drink Milo. My hand had swelled up to twice its size thanks to the IV drip.

When I was being discharged, I was given vitamin B6 tablets and the strongest dose of anti-nausea pills, usually reserved for cancer patients going through chemo. They also took my weight and I realised I had lost 2 kg in under two weeks!

For about three days after I was discharged, I was still very weak and continued throwing up, but it wasn’t as bad as before. It was a milestone moment for me when I was finally able to eat some ‘real’ food ― bread, rice and dhal ― and managed to keep it down.

The medications helped a bit, but I was still throwing up intermittently until I was five months pregnant. I was just glad that throughout all of this my baby was still growing strongly.

Nine months later, I gave birth to a beautiful little baby girl. While I might say it was all worthwhile, hyperemesis gravidarum was still a shock to my system and one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to experience.”

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Hyperemesis gravidarum – The facts

SmartParents expert ob-gyn, Dr Christopher Chong sheds light on this relatively unknown condition.

* Nausea and vomiting is common during pregnancy, but hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a severe form of vomiting in pregnancy, often associated with weight loss and dehydration and requires medical intervention.
* It usually starts at 8 weeks of gestation and often resolves by 16 weeks.
* Women who are at risk for it include: The very young (below 20 years old), the very old (more than 40 years old), first pregnancy, pregnant with multiples, those with thyroid problems or eating disorders, those with a history of depression and those with urinary or vaginal infections.
* Common signs and symptoms include nausea, severe vomiting, the inability to retain food, dehydration with giddiness, fainting spells and severe lethargy.
* He sees about 10 patients every year with this condition who require hospital admission and management.
* Severe cases will be admitted and put on an intravenous drip for hydration and anti-emetics (anti-vomiting medication). The drip will help to break the vomiting cycle and allows mum to rest and build their stamina.
* If the mum keeps on vomiting, depression may set in, plus, it will affect the foetus’s health.
* If you get HG during your first pregnancy, the chances of you getting it for subsequent pregnancies is marginal.
* A common misconception about HG is that it’s an unhealthy pregnancy and that an abortion should be considered.

Thilaga Linggam, 38, is a stay-at-home-mum to Jayshree, 20 months, and Yuvaraj, 6.

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