Fresh hope for women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum

Imagine vomiting up to 12 times per day, so violently that your throat bleeds. This was the case for Lauren Fowler, when pregnant with her daughter Zoe.

Lauren suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) – a debilitating illness affecting one to three per cent of pregnancies.

“The nausea began as soon as I found out I was pregnant, at just five weeks,” says Ms Fowler. “What followed over the next six months was nothing short of a living hell.”

The good news is help is available. As part of a $17 million investment by the NSW Government, various new pathways of treatment will be available across the District for women like Lauren.

The package involves education and research, and will integrate hospital, community and primary care with home-based support and virtual care. It will offer HG sufferers and their families more support.

At SESLHD, the new pathways will include managing symptoms, nutrition, and psychological support.

HG is often misunderstood and women frequently feel their needs aren’t validated, says Joanna Pinder, Clinical Midwife Consultant, and project lead for the SESLHD HG initiative.

 The illness can result in hospitalisation and if left untreated can be potentially life-threatening.

“Many people don't know HG exists, and dismiss it as morning sickness,” Ms Pinder said.

Women with HG face many challenges, such as access to medication and treatments, as well as conflicting advice from healthcare professionals.

“Aside from the physical impacts, HG impacts mental, social and financial wellbeing,” Ms Pinder said.

The relentless nausea meant Lauren was unable to keep most foods down. Sometimes not even water.

“HG affected every corner of my life. I was unable to work or complete household tasks and my husband essentially became my carer for the six months I was ill,” Ms Fowler said.

“The lack of awareness around HG made it hard for people to understand its impacts. My face was permanently covered in burst blood vessels and worst of all, I was not taken seriously by my care providers which prevented me accessing the treatment I desperately needed.”

Lauren is now enjoying motherhood with her daughter Zoe, and hopes that the initiative will improve outcomes for all who suffer from this debilitating pregnancy condition.

Click here to visit the NSW Health HG webpage and downloadable fact sheet.

Lauren with her daughter Zoe