Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Problems That Continue After Birth


The common thought about hyperemesis (severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy) is that regardless of severity, all problems will vanish (at the latest) at the birth of the baby. Then voila, all systems are go and mama is back to full health .

However, in observing many Facebook conversations among post-hyperemetic mothers, it is easy to see that this is not the case. Complications from hyperemesis can easily continue for months or years after baby's birth, and it seems that it is common for HG mothers to experience various problems for the long-term.

What are the possible post-birth problems following a hyperemetic pregnancy?

Firstly, there is the rare form of hyperemesis that continues full-force after baby's birth. Thankfully, this is extremely rare. I have only heard personally of two cases (one I know personally, one by hearsay). Unfortunately, there is no knowledge of this in the medical literature.

More commonly, post-pregnancy complications involve any of the following:
  • Long-term fatigue and exhaustion
  • Long-term nutritional deficiencies
  • HG injuries such as damaged teeth or Mallory-Weiss tears
  • Gut health problems
  • Postpartum nausea, which may peak at various times during a woman's cycle (often at ovulation and pre-menses)
(I am not including psychological issues like flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, but those, if anything, are even more common than physical complications.)

With my first pregnancy (my pregnancy with uncontrolled HG), I experienced a lot of long-term fatigue after baby's birth. It was not until baby was something like 15 months old that I finally felt better. HG was the most grueling experience of my life, and it left me spent and exhausted. It took a long time to heal from how badly beat up I felt after that pregnancy. 

But my most pressing problem, with each pregnancy (with either active HG or controlled HG) was postpartum residual nausea. I have dealt now with this problem for many years. 

For me, the nausea was not tied to my cycle or to various times of the month. It was simply ever-present in short waves of seconds (perhaps minutes) that came and went all day, every day. 

At first, right after baby's birth, it was somewhat more severe. I cannot tell you how much money I wasted on pregnancy tests, absolutely sure that the nausea meant I was expecting. I lived in a state of "I must be pregnant" for many, many months. 

The nausea gradually subsided over time, but it took a good 18-24 months for most of it to vanish. And the same postpartum nausea occurred with each subsequent pregnancy (three in all). 

I should perhaps mention that before my HG experience, I had never dealt with nausea in any form (barring stomach bugs, etc.). This was not typical of my pre-pregnancy existence at all.

I took the time to consult several OB's about this issue of postpartum residual nausea. Each time, I got the same answer - complete silence and a distinct "deer in the headlights" look, followed by a how-quickly-can-I-change-the-subject response. Not one of them had anything to say about this condition, nor did any of them even seem to know about its existence. The take-away lesson was, as with many health issues - you're on your own. Modern medical science often can't to help you - so be prepared to research and experiment on your own with post-HG postpartum symptoms. 

Thankfully, by the grace of God, I learned several things that helped me to eliminate postpartum nausea, and I want to end this post by sharing them with you!

Here are the three stages of my journey through dealing with post-HG postpartum nausea:

Step #1: I started the very low carb (VLC) diet while preparing for a subsequent pregnancy. 
Result: The nausea got much, much worse.

This really scared me. I was starting a diet to prevent HG, and it was making my already-present postpartum nausea worse? How could this possibly help?

Thankfully, some internet searches quickly gave me the scoop on what was going on. In my attempts to begin the very low carb diet, I had unintentionally made the diet very low carb AND low-fat. This was a major mistake. Do not attempt a diet that is both low-carb and low-fat. In doing so, I made myself very sick! A VLC diet must also be high-fat to be healthy and successful.

However, having been raised in the eighties and nineties, I had grown up well-brainwashed with the "fat is evil" mindset, and I was still unintentionally cooking that way.

Step #2: I added the high-fat component to the VLC diet. 
Result: Success!

To jettison the habits of 30 years took some real work, and I had to work on cooking high-fat intentionally. This meant lots of avocados, lots of cheese and cream, lots of butter and peanut butter.

Within several hours of adopting the new high-fat component, I felt better! Not only was the over-and-above nausea gone, but about 90% of my postpartum nausea vanished - just like that.

Additionally, I felt great. I am now a huge proponent of the low-carb high-fat diet and have experienced many awesome health benefits from it. If you're still nervous about this, check out this wonderful book - "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet." This is the best book on food history that I have had the pleasure to read, and it was a distinct learning experience.




Step #3: Fermented Foods
Result: Complete Success!

However, there was still that tiny, nagging 10% of residual nausea still sticking around. Ugh! However, I was happy with how far I'd come, and I didn't have any more ideas. I was okay with where I was.

Then, about a year ago, something amazing happened. A friend of mine found the answer to her repeat-hyperemesis in an H. pylori treatment protocol. Wow! I was so excited!

The biggest part of my friend's treatment plan was the addition of large amounts of raw, lacto-fermented foods to her diet (almost all of which are completely missing from the standard American diet). These include (among hundreds of possibilities):
  • Raw fermented pickles (NOT typical storebought pickles)
  • Raw fermented sauerkraut (NOT typical storebought sauerkraut)
  • Plain, full-fat yogurt
  • Plain, full-fat kefir
  • Non-pasteurized kombucha 
  • Lacto-fermented vegetables (kimchi, lacto-fermented salsa, etc.)

Almost immediately upon adding lacto-fermented foods to my diet, that last nagging 10% of my postpartum nausea vanished. 

*Large celebration!*

Thus, I had found my answer - not through medication, but by simple dietary changes that had been within my power (but not my knowledge) for years. 

I hope that these steps will help some of you dealing with similar challenges. For those of you with other post-HG symptoms (or other health problems), I encourage you not to give up! Oftentimes the answers really are out there, and oftentimes they can be found through diet and supplements. But you will have to do the hard work of research and experimentation on your own, as most modern doctors simply are not trained that way. 

I would love to hear about your story. Have you suffered from post-HG postpartum complications or symptoms? Have you found anything that helped? Please take a few minutes to let me know!

Much love, dear friends. 






15 comments:

  1. I vomited throughout labor and birth and immediately post partum. I find that I nauseate more easily now than I did before HG. And I think certain things (memories/foods/smells) that were really bad in HG will be triggers of nausea until the day I die.

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  2. Jen - Wow - throwing up during labor! I didn't realize (or remember!) that. That's really intense - far more than I experienced. Yikes. And yes, I definitely still have nausea/panic triggers - various foods, smells, places, books, memories, even certain songs. And the other thing you mention - becoming nauseated more easily than pre-HG - YES. I should have mentioned that in my list above. That is a huge thing. Before HG, I simply wasn't a nauseated person. Ever! But ever since, I've been much, much more prone to become nauseated for different reasons. Between our last pregnancy and this conception, I would even be prone to waking up in the middle of the night - nauseated, of course! - and having huge panic moments of thinking that I was pregnant. It's very odd. HG is definitely a whole-body-altering experience.

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  3. I vomited in labor as well... Actually one of my kids I threw up for about 6 hours postpartum!

    I am glad to see some of these things acknowledged. 6 HG pregnancies has RUINED my teeth! People are like why didn't you brush your teeth after vomiting. UMM because even rinsing my mouth out with water caused me to throw up again. I went to a dentist who tried to give me a referral to an eating disorder clinic! I laughed at that one.

    I still get nausea and sometimes vomiting with PMS. I had an OB tell me that is not possible. I said well maybe my body is just a lot more sensitive than the average woman to hormone fluctuations.

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    1. was your HG throughout entire pregnancy and you still had 6 pregnancies? you are a true hero! I don't know if I can do another one after this.

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    2. Hi, Cecilia! Thanks for visiting! I don't know if Jennifer is still on this thread (I hope she is!), but if she isn't, here is the blog of an HG mum who has been through 13 severe HG pregnancies:

      http://contentmentacres.blogspot.com/

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Jennifer - Thank you so much for visiting and leaving your comments!! I think that the postpartum post-HG health issues really need to be discussed, because it's an ignored issue in the medical community. I think that probably happens because (1) usually post-HG issues are non-emergency, unlike active HG, and (2) OB's and midwives say goodbye to their clients at the 6-week check-up. Thus, they never see the long-term effects of HG on a mother. I have had one or two OB's tell me that postpartum nausea was imaginary as well - but it's definitely not.

    Thank you for visiting!!

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  5. Jennifer, I am so sad that someone referred you to an eating disorder clinic.Just shows that so many medical professionals have yet to take us seriously. I too, have suffered from hyperemesis in two pregancies and can completely relate to what you are saying about the mental effect it has on you as well as the nutritional wipeout post pregnancy. I have just now discovered supplementation with magnesium, vitamin b6 and b12 and the bit of crazy and ridiculous depressive feelings have started to lift. Also, the diet when too high in those horrible simple carbs mucks up your insulin levels and plays a part in the torment. Not meaning to be dramatic, but as you know that's what it is. I also believe the 'low fat' mentality that many of us were brainwashed with has made us suffer. Please check out my story on my blog "vitalhealthjourney.com" its a few articles down. Prayers for every lady out there who has suffered with this!

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    1. Ingii, thanks for visiting! I completely agree with everything you have to say - thank you for chiming in. Post-HG health problems seem to be waayyy more common than doctors admit or know, and I think it's super-important for mamas to be aware of this, because these health problems can really follow you for the long term if we don't take steps to correct them. And yes, the low-fat movement has seriously affected our generation for the worse - I am more and more convinced of that, the more research I do.

      Thank you!!

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  6. Also, I forgot to mention there IS supposed to be a link with fatty liver which is caused by too many simple carbs in the diet and high blood sugar levels (I never would have guessed I could be effected by it), but my diet was very high in simple sugars. Sadly, I always thought I was healthy because I exercised a LOT. Ladies, you can't workout to cover up a bad diet. Eat whole foods, no simple sugars, google what that is. I'm so passionate about wanting this to end for women of this generation. I think we were sold on bad dietary habits and "told" they were good growing up. The best way to eat is the way that traditional cultures ate when they were free from disease before white sugar, white flour were introduced to the diet.

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    1. "Ladies, you can't workout to cover up a bad diet."

      I can't say a big enough AMEN to this!!!

      I think that you and I are on the exact same page with regard to diet and health. Thank you for sharing!! :)

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  7. Hi, I am a mother of a daughter that went through 3 pregnancies with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. With each pregnancy the symptoms were greater for her. My question is, could this have impacted a slight depression issue she had prior to the pregnancies? She is having problems that seem to be getting worse with time. I am worried about her and our relationship along with her relationship with her husband and with the children. Have you ever heard of anything like this?

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    1. Good morning, Kathy! Thank you for visiting!

      Unfortunately, I'm not a qualified medical professional, so I don't have concrete advice to give.

      I have learned, however, that oftentimes health issues that we consider to be separate issues tend, in the end, to be related (or to have a common source). For example, when I did a particular diet to address hyperemesis gravidarum, it had the side effect of eliminating my seasonal allergies. I had no idea they were connected in any way! But oftentimes health issues, like poor gut health or inflammation, will manifest in a myriad of different health problems. Thus, I would say that anything is possible in terms of a relationship between seemingly unrelated health issues.

      My one piece of advice would just be to read, read, read on the topic of health. I have learned so much just from extensive reading, and each book gives me more and more clues as to how to improve my health and work toward eliminating HG and other health issues from my life.

      My current list of recommended books on health is here:

      http://whiningpuker.blogspot.com/2015/01/so-you-want-to-learn-about-food.html

      For brain health (including depression), a couple to start with could be:

      - "Gut and Psychology Syndrome"
      - "Grain Brain" and "Brain Maker" (by Perlmutter)
      - "The Wahl Protocol"

      "It Starts With Food" would be another good one.

      I wish your daughter all the best - dealing with HG and depression together has got to be such a rough combination!

      Diana

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  8. I still suffer in the aftermath of Hyperemesis Gravidarum and I am one that delt with Hyperemesis After having my daughter for the first 3 years it was chronic and debilitating ! I raise awareness and currently writing a book ! Women dealing with health issues after Hyperemesis Gravidarum is more common then most think ! I have facts to back this up with research and having Hyperemesis Gravidarum mothers filing out all the research questions I put together ! It's sad more awareness needs to be made about the aftermath of Hyperemesis Gravidarum ! I'm currently writing a book called Hyperemesis Gravidarum before during and the aftermath !
    If you have any questions please feel free to ask

    Starr Andrews Strong

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    1. Starr, thank you for stopping by and telling your story! I wish you all the best with your writing projects!

      Diana

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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