I’m currently sitting on a train, heading back home to my one and only beautiful HG Survivor and reflecting on how my experience during pregnancy has completely changed the direction my life has taken.
Had you told me a few years ago that I would be appearing on national breakfast tv to talk about a medical condition I would have thought you were crazy. But that’s what I did today…
Photo courtesy of Emma Harris
As you may know, I have devoted the past 3 years of my life to raising awareness of the truly awful pregnancy complication Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). This has involved working on a book about HG (which I started way back in 2012, finding a co-author in Spewing Mummy in 2013) and working for the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support. I have worked tirelessly to promote the charity’s work, support other sufferers and survivors, and get word out that that this is not morning sickness!
Photo courtesy of Emma Harris
Which leads me to this morning, when I found myself sitting on the sofa of Good Morning Britain, talking with Dr. Hilary Jones and the presenters Charlotte and Ben about my own experience of HG. Why? Because with news of the Duchess of Cambridge suffering from HG for a second time, there has been a fair amount of media interest in the subject.
Understandably, the response to this has been varied. Some sufferers are over the moon that HG is being presented to the public in this way, having faced lots of criticism over their own pregnancy sickness in the past. Others are disappointed that it is still being described as “acute morning sickness” and that comments about trying to avoid medications in the first trimester or trying ginger are still being offered up as advice.
But here’s the thing for me… HG is making the news! And whilst we still have a long way to go, we are getting there.
Whilst there were comments about ginger, it was made clear that this may not apply to HG (it doesn’t) and whilst there is hesitancy over prescribing medications in the first trimester, they are not being disregarded completely. We are not hearing that there is “nothing they can do” or that treatments are harmful, both of which are common messages sufferers often come across.
And whilst my short interview may not have provided the opportunity to discuss these issues in more detail (my co-author and colleague had this opportunity later on with Phil and Holly on This Morning!) it did provide media attention that is so very needed.
Caitlin on the This Morning sofa, photo courtesy of Emma Harris
Let me tell you something… whilst I talk about HG on a daily basis, whilst I have written a book on the subject and talk to sufferers every single day, going on live tv is on a whole different level.
And talking about my own experience, well that was pretty crazy too! I tend to try and keep the focus on general experiences of HG sufferers rather than my own personal experience. This is partly because this more detached focus is needed in my work both for the charity and on the book. But it is also, in a larger part, because I have been burned too many times by people labelling me as “milking it” or a “drama queen” and I struggle with that. A lot.
I do what I do to try and help others – after all, I shall never be having another pregnancy myself, so all this work has no personal benefit to me! I do it because I do not want others to suffer the way I did, because I am the perfect example of someone whose HG went undiagnosed and untreated for far too long. Here are a few personal facts for you:
- I was never officially diagnosed with HG
- I was given treatment early on which made no difference and then told there was nothing else they could do, despite multiple trips to the GP, until my 5th month
- I lost over 10% of my pre-pregnancy weight
- I was surviving on approx. 300ml of liquid per day at my worst point
- I was refused IV hydration or admission to hospital, despite being told I was “clearly dehydrated” by the nurse assessing me
- I was told various things from healthcare professionals including “it’s just because you are worried about the pregnancy” and “sometimes you just have to ‘put up and shut up'”
As such, I have doubted my experience for a long, long time. I haven’t felt a true part of the HG Community of women who had multiple admissions, knew all about ketones, or were prescribed a variety of antiemetics. I felt like a fraud for a very long time… yet I clearly had HG and I clearly needed treatment. Based on the facts you cannot dispute that, and yet I still question myself. And that is the legacy that HG leaves, especially undiagnosed and poorly treated HG.
HG stole the joy of pregnancy from me. It stole my dream of having a larger family (we’re sticking at one child). And it stole an awful lot of confidence from me, confidence which I worked extremely hard to develop over many years.
Going on live tv was utterly terrifying in many ways, especially knowing just how many other women were relying on me to give an accurate portrayal of the sheer hell that is HG. I have no previous media experience of this kind (freelance writing or social media, yes, but tv and radio, not at all). And I am certainly not used to talking about it from a personal perspective. But my experience has been so profound that I know I would do anything and everything I can to create change for all those other women out there who are suffering now or have suffered in the past. And if that includes going on live tv, then so be it!
If you are a journalist and would like to talk to me further regarding my own experience, my work for the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support or my book “Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Definitive Guide” then please do get in touch using my contact form or call me on 07428 119956
For more information regarding the above topics, please see the following:
You may also be interested in the following posts I wrote during the Duchess of Cambridge’s first pregnancy, regarding the importance of accurate reporting.