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Kimber's Story

Kimber MacGibbon is a registered nurse and the founder of this organization. She has researched HG back to the 1700's and is continually reviewing the most current publications related to nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. She is the mother of two healthy children, a son (1999) and a daughter (2003). (e-mail: kimber@helpher.org)

My first pregnancy in 1998 was a surprise. We had only returned from our honeymoon two weeks prior to the onset of HG. I thought it was just the stress of the wedding, moving and beginning graduate school that was aggravating my stomach and making me exhausted. I was in shock when the pregnancy test was positive. The nausea became progressively worse until I began vomiting uncontrollably the night my husband brought home a roasted garlic pizza. I had to sleep on the sofa with the fan on, aromatherapy candles lit, and the windows open (in November!). A week later, I was in the hospital for the first of four times. I survived on watermelon (hard to find in December!) and Saltines for a few months and lived in huge, baggy sweats – the feel of ANY pressure on my stomach would make me ill. I was able to eat peanut butter and crackers at times – but after choking on them when I got sick, I only ate them if I could keep fluids down. My husband and I slept with a wall of pillows between us because the smell of what he had eaten for the day would also make me sick.

For eight weeks, I couldn't stand up without vomiting. My husband would prepare a cooler of frozen water/juice and melon to put beside the sofa – I couldn't go near the kitchen. Even the TV made me ill – the sight of food, the noise and the light. I laid there and watched the ceiling fan go around, wondering what they would do with my baby if I went insane or died. Two weeks before completing my first semester of graduate school, I had to withdraw because I couldn't attend classes or complete an assignment. I was so depressed. Our families live 2500 miles away, so we had very limited support. A few friends helped by bringing occasional meals, helping me unpack boxes, or running errands – true gifts to us.

We tried every treatment we could find, natural medicine helped some (esp. chiropractic, homeopathic's and acupressure). I ended up on Zofran 16 mg/day and Zantac, which curtailed the vomiting and eased the nausea a little. My husband was so awesome despite the long hours he had to work at that time, he did anything I asked, including cooking, avoiding foods I could smell on him (esp. garlic, onions, and fermented foods), and moving my belongings from my former home. He even called me from the grocery on his cell phone one night and read to me what he saw on the shelves because I was so hungry and couldn't think of anything I could keep down – I couldn't step foot in a grocery store for many months! I still remember those incredible starvation pangs – mixed with nausea – that was one of the worst parts for me.

Around 16 weeks, I finally stopped losing weight (I'd lost 20 pounds) and weighed what I did in early high school. I began the slow process of regaining strength to sit up again and finally to walk a significant distance. Progress was thwarted when I hit my 3rd trimester, my nausea worsened dramatically due to severe reflux. My baby began gaining weight rapidly (and I stopped) and my body was too weak to handle it. My uterine ligaments began to spasm as did my sciatic nerve. The pain during movement would leave me breathless – thus I laid down a lot – propped on lots of pillows. My husband often had to help me stand and sit – especially at the end. I ended up in physical therapy, but the pain was too much and I didn't make much progress. By delivery, I had only graduated to lifting five pound weights. We also tried unsuccessfully to regulate my thyroid – every change in dose resulted in fluctuating nausea.

As my due date neared, we were informed our insurance coverage was changing on my due date and I would have to change OB's and hospitals or be induced. I chose the latter – my OB knew me so well! My body didn't respond well to induction (I was already exhausted) and it took about 30 hours – during which time I wasn't allowed to eat much! It was a bit traumatic after such a miserable pregnancy to have such a complicated birth. But, we survived and our beautiful 8 pound 14 ounce son was born. I only managed to gain 14 pounds total over my normal weight – thus I was still significantly below my normal weight two weeks postpartum.

Recovery was very slow and challenging, I'm sure due somewhat to my commitment to exclusively breast feed (until six months) despite the depleted state of my body. But I think after nine months of him surviving on little food or a very poor diet (only chocolate cheesecake and MacDonald's the last few weeks!), it was a high priority. It took two years to fully recover and overcome the anxiety of foods that made me ill during pregnancy. Postpartum depression was intense and difficult to deal with after so much trauma during pregnancy, as well as my obvious sensitivity to pregnancy hormones. However, we survived and even decided to have one more child since we felt armed with much more information and a new health care team.

Second Pregnancy (2002-2003):

Just in time for Father's Day, we found out that we were pregnant again. It followed three episodes of nausea that felt like HG, however, they were likely early miscarriages. I was a bit scared, not knowing if HG would be more severe this time. For this pregnancy, we tried to be more prepared. I stocked the cabinets and freezer, gained 10 pounds over my normal weight, and found a college student to care for my son. We also interviewed high-risk OB's and found one who suggested I begin Zofran at the first sign of nausea, and increase the dose to the max (32 mg/day) as I felt I needed it.

The symptoms occurred much the same as my first pregnancy. I could not tolerate any pressure on my abdomen; motion, smells, the thought of food made me ill; and my gag reflex was extremely sensitive. Thanks to Zofran and Zantac, as well as lots of rest in the early months, I was able to avoid trips to the emergency room, as well as IV's. I still had three really horrible weeks where I could do nothing but lay on the sofa, and many more throughout the eight months where I could do very little. However, I consider it tolerable compared to my first pregnancy. Interestingly, the food aversions/cravings, sensitivity to smells, noise and motion seemed less intense this time, unless I missed my Zofran.

I lost 13 pounds in the first few months, and only gained about 13 pounds total over my pre-pregnancy weight due to severe reflux and nausea. Gaining the extra pounds early on kept me from becoming so depleted and completely exhausted. Recovery was a bit easier, too, despite my having a scheduled cesarean section at 37 weeks. My daughter weighed 6 pounds 7 ounces, and was healthy and strong. We are very thankful for the excellent medical care we received.

From this pregnancy, I have learned the incredible effectiveness of the higher doses of Zofran. I began Zofran at 4 weeks and was on 32 mg daily from 4.5 weeks until delivery. I also required Zantac and later Prevacid to manage severe reflux that lasted from month four until delivery. It is my personal goal to educate others about the dose-dependent effects of drugs like Zofran, so more women can have the chance to have easier pregnancies. There is always a risk taking medications early in pregnancy, but the risks of malnutrition and dehydration are likely greater. If you are pregnant or considering it again, have hope and be prepared!

HG will no doubt create stress on the entire family and in every aspect of one's life. However, as my husband and I found, our commitment to each other was tested greatly and we can probably survive anything now. Maybe that is one benefit I can find from having HG, besides the precious children we now have. If I can suggest anything to those in recovery, look back and you'll likely find something positive in it all. Focusing on something positive will help you heal. Through this experience, my true friends became apparent and I found a new role - directing this foundation. Plus, I will never doubt the integrity of my marriage - if we can survive severe HG twice, we can survive anything!

If you want to e-mail me, feel free. I welcome your story or any medical information you want to share from your experience.

— Kimber

Updated on: Aug. 17, 2019

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