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When "Morning Sickness" Is Something More

Latest Stories
Latest Stories

Keira Rumble on her pregnancies with hyperemesis gravidarum.

Keira Rumble is a mum of two, a business owner and an advocate for IVF and sufferers of hyperemesis gravidarum and infertility. She is also one of those women who is an enviable go-getter, with not one, but three successful businesses (Krumbled Foods, Habitual Beauty and Mini + Me) so when she was struck with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) in both her pregnancies, a condition that inflicts 1 in 100 women and is characterised by severe nausea and vomiting, her world literally came to a halt. Here, she shares her story in the hopes that other HG sufferers won’t feel so alone.

“When I was pregnant with my first child, my son, I wasn’t diagnosed with HG until I was 26 weeks pregnant. It was peak COVID times, I was working from home from bed a lot, and I just kind of thought it was normal — and that it’d go away eventually.

There was a point at about 22 weeks when I was driving to Sydney for an OB appointment and I had to pull over eight times to throw up. I definitely thought then that it surely wasn’t normal, but it wasn’t until I stumbled across the Hyperemesis Australia Instagram that I realised it really wasn’t just morning sickness. It was much more than that.

I then did a test called the PUQE-24 which rates your vomiting and nausea. My score was off the charts, so I took this to my OB for an official diagnosis. It was a huge relief when I finally had a diagnosis. I felt validated. It wasn’t all in my head, or something I just had to put up with and that allowed me to deal with it a little better mentally.

When I fell pregnant with my daughter last year, I was much more prepared. I had prepped both myself and my support team before I began IVF so they were aware I’d probably have HG again. But, what I couldn’t prepare for was how different it would be to the first time: far more severe.

Unfortunately for most people the “cure” for HG is birth. At one point in my second pregnancy I was on seven different medications per day to help with my HG, and I was still vomiting anywhere from 15-40 times a day.

And of course, everything was different the second time around. We weren't in lockdowns, and I already had a child. HG hit very differently with a toddler in tow, I think this is one of the largest contributing factors to some of my pregnancy trauma; I was essentially absent from his life for 9 months.

Simple things like taking him to the park was nearly impossible, because I was riddled with anxiety thinking ‘if I vomit where will I vomit?, how will I look after Hunter while I am vomiting? What if he is on the slide while I need to vomit? Will someone help me?’

Then there was the other stuff weighing on me. Having already given birth previously, the old pelvic floor wasn’t in tip top shape so everytime I vomited, I would wet myself. This meant I would need a change of clothes too, and towards the end of my pregnancy I started vomiting up blood, which was incredibly confronting. It made anything that wasn’t staying at home a stress-riddled task.

"For most, the 'cure' for HG is birth. I was on seven different medications, and still vomiting between 15 to 40 times a day."

In hindsight, I possibly would have advocated for myself a little bit earlier and pushed for a diagnosis instead of just battling through the symptoms. In reality I don’t think there is anything I could have done that would’ve helped my situation but I think having a clear understanding of the available medications is important for someone that is potentially suffering from HG.

What I know now is that HG medications are about layering. For instance, there are medications for nausea, for reflux, for vomiting, and they all layer on top to help make HG more manageable. My advice to other Mums would be to not just settle for what your doctors prescribe if you are severely incapacitated. And – I can’t stress this enough — ensure you are getting adequate fluid intake via an IV if you are vomiting significantly throughout the day.

I had been so fixated on falling pregnant and keeping the baby, my mind never really had time to think about what it would be like to have a pregnancy past 12 weeks. I naively thought it would be a beautiful glowing pregnancy, and gosh was I wrong.”

You’re not in it alone. Keira's key resource for HG sufferers:

Hyperemesis Australia is the main resource I would recommend to anyone experiencing HG. Cailtlin, who runs it, suffered horrific HG pregnancies, and was pretty much my cheer squad the entire way through my pregnancies. She helped me to push for a diagnosis, and helped me mentally in so many ways. The Facebook group called Hyperemesis Australia Charity Support Group, is also a great resource filled with people going through HG and those who have come out the other side. Having a group of people who have lived the path you are walking helps in a way I can’t even articulate. Quite literally life saving for so many people.

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Looking at videos and photos of my son and I together from when I first found out I was pregnant, and he was such a baby still (just over one) and now I look at him and I really struggle with how much of his life I missed out on. We spent days when it was just him and I in the bathroom or lounge room with him holding an iPad, watching TV or playing with toys while I slept and vomited. I definitely feel so much sadness that I never got to truly enjoy the last few moments of just the two of us.

But I try to look at the positives; he has learnt so much beautiful independent play now, and my fears of our bond being impacted when I emerged out of my pregnancy HG hell seems silly to me now. We are the bestest little friends and he is the best big brother. He will never remember me being unwell; in his eyes we spent all that time together, even if my head was in a bowl for most of it.

And then there's the physical and emotional toll it took. It is so complex and I am still working through my body image issues to be honest. I was so fatigued, so malnourished, and some days I still wake up not wanting to eat because I’m scared of vomiting.

Before I was diagnosed the first time, I knew absolutely nothing about HG. I had heard of “extreme morning sickness” and knew that it didn’t just happen in the morning. But I really had no comprehension on what exactly HG was and how life altering it could be. I think from my years of infertility and my journey of pregnancy loss, I had been so fixated on falling pregnant and keeping the baby, my mind never really had time to think about what it would be like to have a pregnancy past 12 weeks. I naively thought it would be a beautiful glowing pregnancy, and gosh was I wrong.

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