Morning sickness left me dehydrated and malnourished, so why is still not being taken seriously?

I started battling morning sickness before I got pregnant; it was a battle in my mind. I’d believed that nausea and vomiting were merely adorable aspects of pregnancy, which left me underprepared to deal with the real thing. 

Growing up, the movies showed pregnant women throwing up over toilet bowls and their spouses rubbing their shoulders and petting their backs. This led me to conclude that the extra care from partners could make up for the morning sickness symptoms.

In those movies, the vomiting only happened in the mornings and lasted about two weeks. So I was convinced that morning sickness wouldn’t be so bad – I even looked forward to having my own experience.

When I started vomiting three weeks after I got pregnant, I was sick all day, and it lasted well over four months— even with the extra care I got, there was nothing adorable about it.

It’s vital to address this misconception, as many young people get their impression of pregnancy from what the media shows them.

My experience began with a funny, metallic taste in my mouth. Then everything started nauseating me; my husband’s deodorant, the air conditioner, my neighbour’s cooking, even the smell of my own sweat. I was vomiting three to five times daily, spilling whatever I managed to eat into the toilet bowl.

What was supposed to be ‘morning’ sickness lasted throughout the day, leaving me dehydrated and malnourished.

My partner and I’s parents recommended several home remedies and encouraged me to remember that the baby would be worth the trouble. After a particular episode, I was so frustrated I held onto my husband, crying and wishing it would end.

I’m not the only woman who has suffered from morning sickness. In fact, research shows it occurs in about 70-80% of pregnancies and may last from weeks to months.

For some pregnant people, nausea causes severe vomiting and weight loss, known as hyperemesis gravidarum. This is a severe form of pregnancy sickness that occurs in 3% of pregnant women. It’s the version of morning sickness that the movies don’t show us. 

The reality is that sickness, whether in pregnancy or out of it, is never a pleasant experience. It has severe impacts on the quality of life, functioning and willingness of expecting mums to get pregnant again.

In one study of pregnant women, over one fourth of the women with severe nausea and vomiting considered terminating the pregnancy, and three in four considered not getting pregnant again.

And that’s not all. According to Kristine Heitmann, PhD, the high prevalence of nausea and vomiting and its most often self-limiting nature tends to make health care providers trivialise its impact.

The truth is even though morning sickness usually doesn’t hinder foetal development, it imposes a significant negative impact on the pregnant person’s life – I can testify to this. Throughout my first trimester, I looked untidy, and my productivity drastically reduced at work.