So.... let's talk hyperemesis gravidarum (I know, new subject, huh?). When I look around, it seems that this condition is fairly common. I know I'm biased, since I'm an HG blogger, but it seems like most people at least know someone who has experienced it. I think I once counted up people or friends/relatives-of-people at our church who had experienced HG, and I came up with something like ten. That's a lot for a tiny church of maybe 100 people! And those were just the ones I knew of off-hand - I did not interview anyone for further information.
Nowadays, medicine is available to control all but the worst cases of hyperemesis. That is, although it still happens, most hyperemetic women are not going to die.
But here's the thing - if we didn't have the drugs treating hyperemetic women, many HG mamas would die. I'm not one of them, but I know several women personally who probably would not be here today if they had not had modern pharmaceutical help and/or hospitalization to get them through hyperemesis.
But here's the big question. The really big question.
Where is hyperemesis in the annals of history?
In other words, where are all the recorded deaths in history showing the thousands of women who died of hyperemesis before there was treatment for it?
That's the thing. There aren't any. There simply are no (or not many) gravestones or genealogical studies showing all the hundreds of grandmothers and great-grandmothers who died of hyperemesis. But today, there would be (if we did not have the drugs available to treat it).
So.... what's the story here?
There is one person whose death I have heard associated with hyperemesis, and that is Charlotte Bronte. Bronte is said to have died from tuberculosis, but some believe that her death was occasioned by hyperemesis. Here's what Wikipedia has to say:
"Charlotte became pregnant soon after the marriage but her health declined rapidly and according to Gaskell, she was attacked by "sensations of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness." Charlotte died with her unborn child on 31 March 1855, aged 38. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as phthisis (tuberculosis), but many biographers suggest she may have died from dehydration and malnourishment, caused by excessive vomiting from severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. There is evidence to suggest that Charlotte died from typhus which she may have caught from Tabitha Ackroyd, the Brontë household's oldest servant, who died shortly before her."I have always thought it rather odd that no one could tell the difference between tuberculosis and hyperemesis, because they seem as different symptomatically as night and day. ("Madame, we cannot tell if your husband died from chicken pox or a gunshot to the head. The symptoms are so hard to tell apart!" etc.) However, it's hard to tell only reading the historical accounts.
But here's the thing - even if Charlotte Bronte did die of hyperemesis, that is one possible case in all of recorded history (unless anyone else knows of more - and even then, they're still rare). That still doesn't solve the mystery of why hyperemesis is so prevalent today.
Misdiagnosis and underreporting are always possibilities, though they would only be a partial explanation even if this is the case.
Does anyone have any ideas?
I have always believed that hyperemesis, like almost all other diseases, has both a genetic component (the genetic susceptibility) and an environmental component. For example, if you do some research on the history of cancer, you will find that primitive cultures almost always had a nearly nonexistent cancer rate. When Western foods (preserved foods, white flour, sugar, etc.) were introduced, cancer rates began to skyrocket (ditto for industrial chemicals). Today, cancer rates are extremely high - almost everyone I know who has died of recent years has succumbed to some kind of cancer. For us in America, high cancer rates are "the new normal." But that doesn't mean that it has always been that way - it just means that we're used to it. (Ditto for numerous other diseases - see this article for more info.)
Could it be the same with hyperemesis?
I am not, repeat not, saying that hyperemesis (or cancer, or any other condition) is anyone's fault. Far from it. We are all exposed to disease-causing toxins and conditions (electromagnetic waves, poor sleep patterns, stress, you name it), and those things take their toll on our bodies. Every known chronic and degenerative condition (and other countries, of course) - from metabolic conditions, to lupus, to gut disorders (Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, IBS, etc.), to cancer, etc. - is on the rise in America due to toxin exposure and other modern factors. Is it possible that the high number of women experiencing debilitating or life-threatening nausea and vomiting of pregnancy could in some way fall under the same category?
I ask this for two reasons: (1) the lack of evidence I see for widespread hyperemesis gravidarum in history, and (2) the fact that it is not normal for pregnancy to be lethal (or debilitating) to a healthy woman. For a hyperemetic woman, an unmedicated pregnancy can be a death sentence. That is a pathological state, not a variation of normal.
Could it be gut health? Could it be the crazy number of hormone-simulating or stimulating chemicals (birth control, makeup, toiletries, cosmetics, factory-meat) that are screwing with our hormones? Could it be.... any number of things that I don't even know of?
This is just food for thought - or really, the invitation to tell me what you think, or what questions you have. This is an enigma, a mystery, that I have not been able to comprehend fully, but I thought I'd at least write out my questions and my thoughts so that you ladies could comment. If you feel like telling me that I'm an idiot who doesn't know what I'm talking about, please refrain - I know that I am writing with very partial knowledge.
But I'd love to hear your thoughts!
So much of the research today seems to focus on "finding the cure." I know that finding cures for various illnesses is important - but equally important is investigating the causative environmental triggers and factors that are causing the disease. I would like to see research of that kind for hyperemesis!
Anyone wondering why I'm blogging so much today - well, that's what happens when one can't talk! It comes out through the fingers - I'm oozing the words that I can't say in speech right now.
Cheers, all! Bring on the comments!