Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Archived Q&A and Reviews

related page: Morning Sickness

From http://www.hyperemesis.org/
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a debilitating disease of pregnancy marked by moderate to severe nausea/vomiting that causes rapid weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration in the mother, and unknown consequences for their unborn child(ren).

Partner has hyperemesis - a year with no sex?

October 2003

My partner is pregnant with hyper emesis. This is a condition where a person is intolerably nauseous for the term of the pregnancy, challenging her to keep food and water down. It is serious, and we are following a combination of alternative and western medicine and keeping her pretty O.K. She is 11 weeks pregnant. We expect it to get a little better, but not too much until birth. She is obviously, not working, and has left me to be main cook, washer, housekeeper, and two year old watcher. I am holding up O.K., and have been focusing only on work and family. Where I have been finding myself a bit crazed is that she is too nauseous to hug me, or be near me for very long let alone be physically passionate. I am a sensual person and we enjoyed high quality, though not large quantity sex/love/passion before. I would like to just hear what creative solutions, thoughts or prayers might come from the community. I have been fantasizing about going to a Massage Parlour or something of that caliber and that hasn't been me in the past. My heart and tummy are aching and I feel like I need a hug. I know many of us, while parenting, give up their sensuality for family. Share thoughts, experiences on this? I love my family and my partner has even told me go see an old girlfriend or something, but I don't have any in the Bay area and I'm not really sure that is a good thing to do while trying to keep focus on new life at home.

It's really hard to not have physical affection. Maybe talking about those things that you miss doing with her will help. That way you both could affirm and hopefully satisfy your desires without causing her discomfort. My advice would be to sit down and talk with your partner at some point when you wont have interruptions for a good amount of time. Tell her about the things that you miss doing with her. Start by telling her about how much you love her and reasons why. Then tell her about how you miss being hugged/hugging her. Be careful to say it in a very loving way so as not to put her on the defensive. Maybe acknowledging those things that you miss will make you both feel more connected and it might be erotic.

About going outside your partnership: my experience is that children of any age pick up, at some level, everything that goes on in their parents lives no matter how hidden. My father often had sex with people other than my mother (which caused me to constantly fear that he would either leave or would do something to me) and once they divorced I didn't need her to tell me this. Anon

I'm so sorry to hear about your wife's condition. I've had two severe hyperemesis pregnancies and it is such a debilitating, miserable condition. Obviously, it also affects other family members too, who must suddenly step into the role of caregiver, errand runner, housekeeper, etc. It can be a huge challenge for everyone involved.

I know how your wife feels -- when I had hyperemesis (aside from the extreme suffering with unrelenting nausea and constant vomiting), I had a hyper sensitivity to stimuli. I hated being touched, could not tolerate hugs and I didn't even want my husband to sleep next to me.

I don't have any great advice for you as the partner. Perhaps a relaxing massage (not a sexual one) would help with your desire for some kind of touch. Maybe counselling/ therapy could help you learn coping mechanisms to get thru this tough time. But, what may seem like an easy ''solution'' to your problem (seeking out sex parlours or having an affair) will have long-term consequences for your marriage. It may seem like your wife is giving you permission to see old girlfriends, but the hyperemesis is clouding her better judgment.

When I was so sick, I didn't care about anything or anyone. All I could do was try to survive another hour, another day. When I was finally feeling better, if I had found out that my husband had been unfaithful while I was bedridden with hypermesis, I would have been devastated to the point of ending the marriage. I know you are facing months of no intimacy. But, it does eventually have an end. It's hard to imagine now, but life will return to normal and you will have the ultimate prize at the end, a baby. In the meantime, don't forget to look after yourself. Take a night or afternoon off and see friends, exercise, take a walk, watch a movie or whatever you need to do to relax. Please keep it all in perspective and be patient. You may want to check out www.hyperemesis.org for more suggestions (I'm a volunteer with the organization).

By the way, even severe hyperemesis usually improves or goes away completely by the third trimester. I know that is still a few months away, but it won't be a year. My husband and I didn't have sex for about 5-6 months with my first pregnancy but by the time I was seven months pregnant, I could manage some intimacy. Good luck and take care. Hyperemesis survivor

I suggest that you Masturbate to release sexual frustration. Seeing an old girl friend is a very bad idea as that will complicate your life beyond belief. I think a sexual massage will not be fullfulling. I would suggest a regular massage to alleviate the sense of physical loneliness. In my past that combination has worked to keep me from overly complicating my life in different circumstances but similar compliants. Anon

Well, Being a father in a very similar situation, the best counsel is patience. You need a huge, if not endless, amount to be a parent; and you will have to exercise a lot of patience with your wife too I'm afraid. Unfortunately, a little nausea goes a hell of a long way - a lot of nausea can make a person go over the deep end. Here are my thoughts: You're probably right, the massage parlour should be the last resort, and if you decide to go that route, I would suggest you both talk about it thoroughly including possible unintended consequences to your relationship with one another.

There are, however, other alternatives.

1) find exclusive time to be together even if this means hiring a babysitter (this should be a rule for your marriage anyway as it won't last without some consistent exclusive time)

2) find other alternatives to hugging - manual sex with hands, foot massage, back rubs, hand holding, gazing into one another\x92s eyes - whatever works

3) Talk about how you feel a lot, especially in moments of weakness, and be sure that you're giving each other kudos for how you feel (avoid inducing feelings of guilt at all costs) and how well you're doing at working through it. This does NOT mean ''lets sit down now and have a heart-to-heart'' every day. Too much of that becomes artificial, just do it when it feels natural as part of your normal everyday conversations.

4) Absolutely never pretend like there is no problem - I've tried it, and believe me it doesn't work. You would think that if you just were laid back enough, that after months and months (intermittently over a period of MANY years as in my case), your wife would come around. Well, not likely. Women and men are different. Here is how I put it, men need sex and physical intimacy in order to be emotionally close. Women need emotional intimacy in order to be physically close. BUT men NEED physical intimacy while many, many women don't necessarily NEED physical intimacy (often) and their cycle of feeling that ''need'' is much longer than that of a man. So pretending like the problem exists will make the guy go nuts (literally).

5) I don't know about prayers - they tend not to do much for sex craziness - so use your own hands as much as is necessary to keep from going stark raving mad :). Finally, bottom line \x96 if this is ONLY happening because of pregnancy, count yourself very lucky. Working through long-term lack of sexual desire, as I am doing, is very difficult. Also consider that what you have is, hopefully, emotionally and spiritually satisfying with: daily warmth, love, acceptance, tenderness, understanding, mutual respect, etc. Sex parlours are notoriously weak in this area and could leave you feeling worse than when you walked through that door.

In The Same Boat

Hi- While I can't really give you any other advise about this than to rent yourself a good adult flick or a nice magazine and spend a few minutes alone to 'take care of your pent up sexual frustrations'. As far as how to help you and your wife for now, try hiring a maid once a week to help with cleaning and maybe a nanny to give you and your wife time to go out a little together and spend some emotional closeness, if not physical closeness.

On the other hand, I was the same way when I was pregnant (being averse to sex) but wasn't sick w/ nausea all the time, so I guess I was lucky. Just remember that although your wife is sick, still need to show her how much you love and appreciate all she is going through to have a healthy baby. Give her little gifts, even if its flowers picked by the road, or a note left on her pillow... be romantic even if you can't have the sex. She will appreicate this sooo much and her emotional roller coaster that she's on w/ pregnancy anyway this helps too. Shaana

First, let me thank you for being honest about your thoughts and feelings. I went through a similar situation with my husband. I wasn't physically sick, but my libido went way down. I couldn't keep up with his demands, and without thinking, I mentioned seeking gratification elsewhere. What a mistake! It hit home when he was arrested by a sting operation for soliciting prostitution. I was hurt, angry, confused and devastated. Then, he was cited a month later for the same thing!

It would help if you tried to put yourself in your wife's shoes. She's carrying a whole new developing person in her body. Let's put this into perspective....she's extremely sick right now and it's her who has to go through the weight gain, the bloating, swelling, aching back, inflamed joints, changing body, stretch marks, insomnia, poking and prodding at the doctor's office and the emotional rollercoaster. After all that, is the painful birthing process. If she wasn't quite as sick, I'm sure she'd still be responsible for cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry and taking care of your other child.

Remember, marriage is for better or worse, in SICKNESS and in health, till death do you part. If that means going a year without sex, then so be it. Let's put you in her shoes. If you had something wrong with your health and it would take a year to heal, would you accept your wife taking on other lovers to satisfy her desires because she was too impatient to wait? Most men wouldn't (including mine). You'd expect your wife to stick by your side until you healed and could please her yourself. After all, it's only a year out of a lifetime together.

What worries me about your message is that your wife is just 11 weeks into her pregnancy and you're already considering going outside your marriage for satisfaction. I'm sure she misses the passion just as much as you. Things should settle down after this first trimester, but if not, you might think of self- gratification instead. After the fog clears, she'll realize what a silly idea it was to suggest you seek out an ex- girlfriend. If you do, and she finds out, your marriage will NEVER be the same (if it lasts). Good Luck! Anon

Having been very, very sick during both of my pregnancies, I can somewhat relate and sympathize. Pregnancy can take a toll on intimacy, no doubt, and you have to work hard at maintaining it both during pregnancy and while you are raising your little ones. However, I have spent enough time in therapy and reading self-help books to think that I sensed some red flags in your posting. Your wife is only 11 weeks into the pregnancy and you are both considering pretty extreme measures--rendez-vous with an ex, massage parlors, etc. I am not trying to judge you (I have suggested such things to my husband myself at times!) just wondering what is motivating such potentially marriage-damaging solutions? Before you do anything extreme to your precious relationship, please talk to a professional. (I recommend Bob Heavner in Berkeley.) Anon

Well - our family can sure relate! - With baby #2 due in a few weeks we are approaching the end of our second round of dealing with hyperemesis and its reprecussions on our family - it sure is brutal - I think it is important and really good that you are addressing this aspect of the problem NOW as it's something that dads don't get to discuss much and I know my husband went through hell the first time around. I couldn't help him at all as it was everything I could do to walk to the car to get to the Dr.s. All told I think we didn't even kiss for 7-8 months because the taste in my mouth was always so bad even if I had wanted to I couldn't have imagined subjecting someone to that. Also my sense of smell was so heightened that hugging was hard because his natural body smell (not B.O. - just the smell of another human being close by) gave me waves of nausea.

Six weeks post-partum he broke down in tears just from the sheer physical frustration he'd endured. He wound up gaining 60 lbs. over the course of my pregnancy from overeating to get some release from the anxiety and frustration too which didn't help his self-esteem.

However, I think we've handled it better this time around and maybe I can offer a few suggestions. From the woman's perspective it was imporatant that my husband had a better sense this time that my behavior towards him physically was NOT at all related to my not being attracted to him. It was that honestly I was trying to survive one minute at a time and there was physically no room for me to have intimate desires. Also the awful side effects I mentioned above with a heightened sense of smell etc.. just made it impossible for us to be physically close .

I think this time around my husband better understood that there were hormones making me feel this way rather than my suddenly actually thinking he was repulsive. That being said - he was clearly VERY sexually frustrated and just knowing it wasn't personal only helped so much.

Some of the things that helped.

He really got into exercising - which has helped his self esteem stay afloat and given him a good source of physical release. In these last few months he's even taken to lifting weights which is not at all his style but I think he was getting a bit desperate.

We developed a really clear routine for him to help me when the vomiting came on. Because it is such a brutal experience it helped me to have him hold his hand against my back and when I was especially weak - physically brace me or hold me up to help. In addition one of the most foul things that can happen vomiting is to vomit on yourself - so he would automatically hold my hair back and out of the way. We learned NOT to vomit in the toilet as there can be a back splash but had various plastic tubs and containers around the house to use which he could grab. He also would routinely get me some cold water right after so I could rise my mouth out. If the vomiting was extreme a cold compress for my eyes or neck also was really helpful. I know these aren't sexually satisfying activities but it helped me SOOO much and I think he felt better to be able to DO something instead of just watch.

Physically after about 20 weeks I was able to hold a bit more food down and we were able to get in a car and drive to Calistoga to enjoy some hot springs. ( i know this may seem unimaginable now but it may be posssible in a few months...) Just sitting next to each other in a warm pool was a first step toward touching a bit more and was a somewhat sensual. I also started sleeping with lavender sachets under my pillow so that I didn't have to push him away so much.

This time around I have tried to make a more conscious effort when I could to touch him more, give him compliments, and really thank him for all his help keeping the house going.

He enjoys having his back scratched and I could do this for him after about 6 months. I also suggested my husband get some porn movies or do whatever he needed to though I don't know if he took me up on that.

I think because we knew what to expect this time around we both talked to friends more and tried to come up with more options and solutions - in addition we we able to talk about the impact hyperemesis has on our sex life as one of the many things that this condition requires a family to deal with rather than something I should feel guilty about or he should feel resentful about.

On a helpful note - this time around I did start feeling somethat better around 24 weeks. (I think this was in part due to getting regular IV infusions over the first 20 weeks to keep my hydration levels steady. If you're not already doing this ask your OB - there is a great infusion unit at the Alta Bates/Herrkick campus site - it meant that my overall weight loss was less than with my first pregnancy and after I was able to hold food down my recovery time was shorter - meaning I had more energy sooner. Around 7 months or so I actually got that libido kick people talk about - as my friend put it - I was hungry and horny - it lasted about 2 weeks and we were able to have sex a few times - though I was already pretty big. Can't say it was fantastic but my husband didn't seem in the mood to be critical.

Of course your wife may not get this respite but overall I think it has helped us both to just hold on to the awareness that this WILL PASS. Really our focus had to become how can we get through this traumatic period without causing too much damage to our relationship so that we can enjoy what will be a fairly rapid return to a more normal physical state for me (post-partum pains etc..excluded) after the baby comes. I hope some of this helps - it's not very lucid but I think there are really no easy answers to this problem - Certainly being open and honest with your wife - talking to friends and trying out different solutions to see what works for you both will help you both to feel less powerless and hopeless during this very difficult time.

Just remember - IT WILL END, you will get your wife back and a great son/daughter too. In the mean time best of luck to you both. anon

My heart goes out to you. You are experiencing what many of us like to refer to as ''AFGO'' -- Another F--ing Growth Opportunity.

I'd like to suggest that you first stop and listen to yourself, take note of the things you're saying. First, it is not ''a year'' with no hugs or sex. At this point, it's only 6 months 'til your partner gives birth. Sure, it might take a while for her to be ready to have sex again after the birth, but still, watch that you don't aggrandize your pain.

Second, please notice how aware you are of your own discomfort without apparently comparing it to how much more discomfort your partner is in. You feel unhappy without sex or hugs? How do you think she feels without sex, hugs, or the ability to keep food down?

Of course you feel uneasy about going to a massage parlour or an old girlfriend. This is natural; it's your inner self telling you that to abandon fidelity to the woman who is suffering to bring you a family would be an indelible stain on your character, and, however generous she is being with you on this issue, could permanently and fatally damage her trust in you.

Please take a look around at the elders in your community. One of the reasons they are wiser (and they aren't always, but quite often they are) is because they have been through this type of situation and worse. They became wise either because they made the right choices and grew in compassion, empathy, and love, or because they made the wrong choices and lost what they held dear. Adversity is a necessary part of maturing.

If you need sex, take a shower. If you need a hug, go to your two-year-old. If you need to talk, find a friend or a therapist. Then go to your partner and treat her with gentle lovingkindness. When this is over -- so much sooner than it looks right now -- you will find that you have grown deeper in compassion and empathy, and your relationship will be stronger and dearer than you'd ever imagined.

Firstly, don't assume your partner will be ill the entire pregnancy even if she was for the first! Every pregnancy is different. You are only 11 weeks into this and most women will feel ill to about 16 weeks at least. She may feel better at any point! It is hard to see any light ahead when you are in the thick of it, for both of you. The best thing that you can do for her (and for you)is comfort her (and your unborn child) and be more understanding than you ever dreamed you could be! Aside from the emotional aspect of pregnancy on a woman, your partner's hyper emesis is physically challenging her more than she probably ever has been. Even with a mild case, it can be really bad!

I am going to be blunt here: You said that your primary focus is family and work. That should be your only focus! You are obviously thinking about intimacy/sex as well, just as much as family and work because you have already discussed stepping out to your partner. I can only honestly say that in my eyes, it seems you are focusing on sex/intimacy quite a bit only 11 weeks into this! It seems more about sex, because hugs can come from everywhere. Intimacy doesn't have to be sexual. If you need a hug, hug your two yr old or a good friend or family member. If you need sex, masturbate. Sometimes you have to take it all on, including self satisfaction! Hyper emesis is a temporary situation that will end, but I'll tell you, stepping out is not temporary, once you do that, it's permanent, no going back......

In any case, even though she is telling you it's ok to go elsewhere for attention, keep in mind, she is extremely emotional right now and focusing only on feeling better! It probably would not be alright. She'll say anything so you'll give her the space shee needs. If you take the need for that attention away, she may surprise you at a moment when she is feeling better and rested!

I suffered from hyperemesis for the first 6 months of pregnancy. I could not even tolerate my husbands natural breathing coming into my personal space (the super human olfactory sense is amazing in pregnancy!)! Any intimate, let alone sexual suggestion, seemed like an infraction to me at the time! A trying time, indeed, for both of us. I would definitely have told my husband to step out if that had ever come up. Just to get him off my back about it because I really, could not even think about it, everything made me dizzy, even thinking! Would I really have meant it? At the time, yes, but definitely, no in my rational mind and it would have affected our relationship adversely! Is that to say it will with yours? Who knows... you don't even really know unless your relationship has always been open and you've practiced it already..... even then, you still don't know.

When you are pregnant, there are many irrational things that go through your head when emotions run high, hormones are flooding and you're feeling unhumanly ill (imagine having the flu-- a very bad flu-- for months and feeling like your entire life force is being sucked out of you!!??). There is research to show this can occur in the male partner as well (you say your thoughts are not typical of you either!?)!!!!

You need to lighten her load, not burden her with your ''needs.'' Yes, it's a big load for you too and a whole lot of exhausting work. I am not trivializing that. Go get a massage if you need one. It doesn't have to be sexual. And remember that this will pass.

You know, you devote yourself to your partner, your two year old, your unborn child. Take care of them, yourself, your home, your work.... It will all pass and your partner will be more in love with you than ever for your respecting her needs. Remember, what she needs right now, they are needs. What you need right now, that's a ''want'' you might really, really regret..... Your efforts will come back to you. Honor your partner and she will honor you. Have love in your intentions. The universe will reward you. Grow in light. LogicalMama

While my mother-in-law was pregnant with both her kids, my father-in-law slept with prostitutes. Not only did she take a dim view of it (and believe me, it came up when they divorced), he caught an STD (both times) and passed it on to his wife and kids.

To say that my husband thinks his father is lower than pond scum for sleeping around on his mother while she was pregnant would be, um, putting it mildly. So that's something to keep in mind when you start fantasizing about exes and massages -- what will your kid think of you in 30 years if you sleep around on his mom?

Additionally, F-I-L now has some sort of major heart problem (three surgeries this year alone) because of complications from said STDs.

Needless to say, even when I was retching and miserable, my husband did not sleep around! He made do on his own and was very supportive of me.

I would suggest masturbating (and not parading it in front of your partner -- believe me, she's got enough other things to deal with that she does not need to be reminded every night that you don't find her adequate sexually....)

You're about to be a parent, and that means giving up some things you like in order to be a contributing member of the family. You may only see the deprivation now, but you'll see the rewards when your partner gives birth to your beautiful child! Learn From Other's Mistakes