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My Agonizing Decision To Take Prescription Medication For Severe Morning Sickness

Kate Middleton is English Royalty, but I bet she didn’t feel very Royal when she was hospitalized recently for severe morning sickness. I can sympathize with her because I too had the kind of morning sickness that literally brought me to my knees.

Desperate for help, I went to my OB/GYN for advice. I practically crawled into her office with my husband, Barry, holding me up for support. I need some relief, fast. 

At about 8 weeks pregnant with my second child, I was desperate.  My morning sickness began promptly at 6 weeks and immediately became unbearable. Extreme nausea and vomiting plagued me all day and night. When I stood up, I got dizzy and threw up, even if I hadn’t eaten. I was exhausted from the lack of sleep and was subsisting on bread and juice.

I’d had similar symptoms with my first pregnancy 2 ½ years earlier, but I’d managed to keep working full time and quell the symptoms with the Relief Band, a pulsing wristband that looks like a watch. At exactly 12 weeks, my symptoms disappeared.

This pregnancy, however, the vomiting was so severe I couldn’t move without throwing up. It was like being on a boat in the middle of the ocean with 20 foot waves causing the boat to tilt and rock. I took a leave of absence from work and stayed in bed, unable to do anything, including care for my 2 year-old daughter.

My OB/GYN took one look at me and said, “you need help or I’ll have to check you into the hospital.”

“What are my options?” I asked.

My doctor explained there were prescription medications, Zofran and Phenergan, which would take away most—but not all – of my symptoms of morning sickness. She told me that while she felt the medications were safe, they were only prescribed in the most severe cases, like mine.

Of course, my first question was about the health of my unborn baby. Barry wanted to know if there could be any harm to the baby, including birth defects. My doctor responded that studies had shown these drugs, which had been on the market for some time, to be safe in animal studies, but nothing could ever be ruled out because no studies had been done on pregnant women. No researcher would ever risk the health of a pregnant woman or her unborn baby, she told us.

“I’ll take the prescription,” I said.

Worried sick and filled with anxiety, I walked slowly to the pharmacy located on a lower floor of the medical building. My head was spinning with scary thoughts about the baby’s health. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I hoped relief was on the way.

Handing me two prescription bottles, in a stern, somber voice, the pharmacist, an older man with gray hair looked at me and said, “take these medications only if you absolutely must.”

As the pharmacist handed me the two bottles of pills with the stern warning, I almost collapsed. It felt like the choice between two seemingly unbearable options. Take the medications and feel better, but create a small risk to the baby. Or, continue on as I had been and risk my own health and sanity. Not a Hobson’s Choice, but pretty close.

I decided to take the medication. As I recall, within about a day or two, I began to feel a bit better. I was still nauseated, but I stopped throwing up. I started doing things around the house. My head cleared and I felt somewhat normal again. I didn’t return to work right away, but I was able to function again. I felt like I was going to make it. Of course, I worried constantly about the baby’s health.

Unlike Kate Middleton, I was never diagnosed with the condition hyperemesis gravidarum (an extremely severe form of morning sickness than can require hospitalization) because I may not have fit all the criteria, but I definitely had some of the symptoms.

As with my first pregnancy, at 12 weeks, my morning sickness symptoms went away. I immediately went off the medications.

I’m extremely grateful that my son was born healthy and happy at 8 ½ pounds. He’s now 9 years old and he’s just fine.

If I had to make the same decision again, I’d do it all over again. I tried to function with severe morning sickness, but my downhill slide was frightening to both my husband and me. I needed the help of the medications and they did what they were intended to do. If you find yourself in a similar unlucky situation, I hope my story helps you. 

Christina Simon is the mom of two kids, a son (9) and a daughter (12). She is the co-author of “Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles” and writes a blog about L.A. private elementary schools. Christina’s work has been published in The Huffington Post, Salon.com, The Mother Company, The Daily Truffle, Macaroni Kid Santa Monica, Mommy Poppins and numerous other publications. www.beyondthebrochurela.com

Reader Comments (3)

Oh, Christina, that sounds awful. My morning sickness was much worse with my second child too. I wonder if it was from not resting enough due to a baby in the house. I remember laying on the couch crying and begging my mom, and anyone else who would listen, to promise me that if I ever mentioned I wanted a third child to remind me how horrible I felt.

April 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarpool Goddess

What an important article! I don't think I would have considered getting pregant a second time if I had been as sick as you were. I know many pregnant moms will be grateful to read your experience especially since your son is old enough to show he wasn't harmed by what you did.

April 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHayley Kaplan

So happy to hear that you felt more yourself and that your babies didn't suffer for it. No fun. no fun at all. Thanks for sharing.

April 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Baseman

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