Recovering from NVP and HG, especially if symptoms persist until delivery, can take some time. It’s important to give yourself time to recover from any pregnancy, labour and birth - and even more so if you’ve survived a pregnancy that rendered you sick. Experts suggest that it can take 1-2 months of recovery for every one month you lived with NVP or HG. Remember to be kind to your body and mind, and allow yourself the time and care you need to feel well and strong.
At HGA we firmly support and empower you in whatever decision you make regarding feeding your new baby. Many HG survivors find that after nine months of having no control over their body breastfeeding is the last thing they want to do. Others see it as an important step in connecting to their baby after nine months of struggling with connection. Whatever works for you is the best decision for your family - you are an important factor in all of this and your happiness and wellbeing is of paramount importance.
If you decide not to breastfeed there are a few places you can find important information about the ins and outs of bottle feeding. We recommend looking at the pamphlets prepared by the WHO and Unicef.
If you would like support on breastfeeding we recommend looking into the following organisations:
Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand to find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in your local area
Our friends at Hyperemesis Ireland have put together a handy list of FAQs on breastfeeding after HG. Reading through these, and the stories of real life HG survivors, may answer some of your questions.
Any normal pregnancy can leave the mother depleted in important stores of vitamins and nutrients. The developing baby literally sucks these out of it’s mother in order to properly grow into a strong and healthy human being. Postpartum women are encouraged to focus on rebuilding their stores of certain things in order to return to a healthy equilibrium. When NVP or HG is a factor in pregnancy this is of particular concern. While pregnant, women are naturally resupplying their bodies with the vitamins and nutrients the baby is drawing from - but this is near impossible when you cannot eat and drink normally.
The big ones to look out for are iron, B vitamins, folic acid, zinc, copper and magnesium. Your doctor will be able to conduct tests to monitor your levels and suggest supplements or dietary requirements that can ensure you rebuild your stores. We also recommend taking a prenatal or multivitamin, especially if you’re breastfeeding, to help boost your stores of these essential nutrients.
If you have received corticosteroid treatment for any length of time it’s important you get a bone density scan postpartum. Corticosteroids are associated with significant loss of bone density which can lead to a greater likelihood of injury. Your GP or obstetrician will be able to advise the best way to go about monitoring this in the months post birth.
Pregnancy, labour and birth are one of the hardest things the human body can experience. Adding the difficulties that arise from NVP and HG and your body is going to suffer. Remember that it takes nine months to make a baby, and so it will take at least that long to recover from it. We know that it’s easier said than done, but it’s important to remember to nurture yourself during the postpartum period. Continue to rely on the people around you, work with your doctor on a plan for regaining your health, and give yourself permission to rest whenever possible.
EATING + DRINKING
Being sick while you’re pregnant undoubtedly leaves you with a complicated relationship with food. You’ll have the regular pregnancy cravings and aversions, but there will be times when you can’t stomach the thought of eating or drinking anything. Some women find their aversions so extreme that the smell or sight of food will have them retching for hours. Unfortunately, these aversions can last beyond birth, and may morph over time to include the few foods you can stomach during pregnancy, we call these ‘safe foods’.
Some women who have lived with NVP or HG find that they get their appetites back as soon as they’ve delivered their baby and placenta. Others find that it takes a few weeks or months to regain normal eating patterns. Whatever your reality it’s important to remember that you can only do what works for you - and if that means sticking to a strict diet or only a select number of foods (even if they’re not the healthiest) that’s totally okay.
If you experience food aversions during pregnancy these may linger postpartum. Some women find that months after birth they are able to introduce these foods back into their diet - while others will never look at that particular food again. The same can be true of safe foods - you may be so tired of eating and drinking the same things day-in day-out that you never want to think of them again. You may find, especially immediately after birth, that you have a strong reaction to your safe foods. They can trigger powerful memories of the trauma of living with extreme pregnancy sickness and serve as a powerful reminder of what you’ve survived. If you experience this it’s okay to take time out from those items until you feel stronger.
We recommend working with a trusted doctor to develop a meal plan that will both support your postpartum recovery and not trigger any aversions you may be experiencing. They may suggest finding a dietician or nutritionist - at HGA we have a list of these kinds of experts who are HG friendly. Please get in touch if you’d like a recommendation for a local specialist.
Unfortunately, some women find that their symptoms persist after birth for weeks or months at a time. While this is rare, it is important to work with your doctor to rule out any serious causes beyond lingering symptoms of NVP or HG. Once again, remember to be kind to your body and give yourself plenty of time to recover. You may need a few months to really feel like yourself again and that’s okay.
There is no denying that living with NVP or HG for any amount of time has a profound impact on your mental health. If you were receiving professional support for your mental health while you were pregnant, it may be beneficial to continue this postpartum. Research shows that women who have complicated pregnancies, like those affected by NVP and HG, are more likely to develop postpartum depression and/or anxiety. It’s important to stay on top of your mental health postpartum and seek help if you feel yourself struggling.
We recommend checking out the following organisations who are experts in postpartum depression and anxiety. They have a variety of ways to receive help depending on what you’re most comfortable with.
PANDA - Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia
T: 1300 726 306
Try their hotline for more in-depth and individual support you can access from home
Gidget Foundation Australia
T: 1300 851 758
Gidget offers a free video counselling service for new and expecting mums who are struggling with their mental health and are unable to have a face to face consultation. Up to 10 free video counselling sessions are available through their Start Talking program. However, you will need a referral and a mental health care plan from your GP to use the service.
T: 1300 224 636
E: fill in the contact form here
With lots of options for points of contact - including online forums - BeyondBlue are a great source of support when you’re struggling and can’t leave the house. You can even read the stories of other parents through their Speak Up initiative.
Pregnancy, Birth & Baby
T: 1800 882 436
The Pregnancy, Birth and Baby maternal child health nurses are available seven days a week over the phone or via video call between the hours of 7am and midnight (AET)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is common among women who have survived HG. This condition is associated with a number of negative outcomes for women including an inability to breastfeed, relationship and financial problems and a lack of self care. If you feel you may be suffering from PTSD please get in touch so we can support you.
We encourage you to ignore the damaging messaging about ‘bouncing back after baby’ which may guilt you into rushing to the gym as soon as possible after birth. Your body has been through a profoundly intense experience and taking things slow and steady is the best way forward. Women with NVP and HG may be bed bound for weeks at a time, resulting in wasting of the muscles and lack of strength and tone. Work with a women’s physio or your GP to devise an exercise plan that takes this into account allowing you to safely work towards your fitness goals. Your GP will be able to give you a referral to a physio that will cover ten sessions under medicare. Remember, you were pregnant for nine months so it will take, at least, that long to regain your fitness. A routine that is slow but involves constant movement is your best chance at successfully undoing the physical damage caused by pregnancy, birth and sickness.