Eight out of 10 women feel sick in pregnancy according to the NHS, that’s 80 women in every 100. One to three women in every 100 have HG (hyperemesis gravidarum) or severe pregnancy sickness. HG symptoms can include extreme nausea, vomiting multiple times a day, losing weight, feeling dizzy and being dehydrated.
This condition is often hidden. In part because of shame. In part because many women choose not to share their pregnancy news until 12 weeks. In part because women aren’t seen.
In this article I am going to share with you 10 tips for supporting friends with HG.
Pregnancy sickness support for friends
Ask gentle questions
If your friend is a woman and suddenly stops engaging with you, ask gentle questions (it may not be HG but you can be a good friend by being there to listen).
Hold your suggestions
Hold your tongue on all the suggestions. HG is a medical condition and suggesting someone tries ginger when they can’t keep fluid down is not going to be the answer. That’s not to say that your suggestions won’t work but they can leave women feeling unheard, or worse. They can leave women feeling like it is their fault because they should have just tried a simple remedy.
Encourage them to seek medical help
Not all clinicians will be sympathetic. Encourage them to find one who will listen. There are lots of medications women can try but they can be reluctant to try them due to concerns about safety. A good health professional will help guide them through. Not dealing with HG can be harmful for mum and baby as they can be deficient in certain nutrients which can harm development. HG can also cause dehydration which can be very dangerous if left unchecked. Your friend may need you there with them to help explain, they may need you there to take notes, they may need you there to hold the sick bowl.
Sometimes women can’t talk without being sick or feeling really nauseous. Being connected can really help them get through. Whether that is being there to hold the sick bowl, clean the house, sit and watch TV with them or send daily messages, that shows them they are not alone. Don’t forget to check in on their partner and any other family too. HG is hard on everyone.
Offer to do the cooking
Some women will be able to keep certain foods down but the smell of cooking can be triggering. They may also have other family members to care for so might need someone else to cook for them.
As well as this, be careful when you mention food. The word ‘food’ or thinking about it can be a trigger for some women suffering from pregnancy sickness or HG.
Look after their wellbeing
Help keep them hydrated. It can be hard to do this when feeling so ill, so your pregnancy sickness support will be vital here. The best way to keep hydrated is through little sips throughout the day; if you are able to visit, encourage them to try this.
Keep including them
Include them in the life they are missing out on. It’s very hard to be cut off from the rest of the world while dealing with a difficult medical situation. Talk to them about what’s going on in the world and try to bring some of that to them.
Advocate for them
Help them talk to their employer and other friends. It’s important to take their lead but they may need an advocate. Never break confidence here (you should only do that if they are at risk and then that should only be to a health professional who has care responsibility for them).
Help them prepare
Help them prepare for the new arrival. It can be hard to do this with HG as many women have symptoms all the way through pregnancy. Whether it is doing some internet shopping with them, buying lots of options and then returning the ones they don’t want from a physical shop, or helping arrange furniture, decorate and clean. There are lots of ways to offer HG and pregnancy sickness support to your friend and this will help them through some dark days.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas. Thank you for being a good friend to an HG warrior. Trust me, it’s not a fun place to be but good friends make it bearable.
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