Hyperemesis Gravidarum by Wennifer Lin Curry

I am a survivor of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). While I suffered through severe morning sickness during my first pregnancy, it was not until my second pregnancy that I endured the merciless symptoms of life-threatening HG. Within two weeks of my daughter’s conception, I became desperately nauseous and vomited throughout the day and night. Every time I attempted to eat or drink anything, even water, I would immediately throw it back up. Because nothing would stay in my stomach, I lost nearly fifteen pounds within the first ten days of my pregnancy, which was over 10% of my normal body weight. I heaved bile of all different shades, and soon began retching up blood. I was also bleeding out of my vagina due to the pressures from vomiting, and due to the fact that my vulva was still weak from two previous surgeries from cervical cancer.

I felt so helpless and distraught that I went to the abortion clinic twice, but both times, I left without allowing the procedure to transpire, and chose to continue sacrificing my health in order to keep my child at any cost. My partner and my three-year-old son feared for my life. My son would often ask me, with tears streaming down his face: “Mommy, are you going to die?” Each time, I reassured him that mommy would be “okay” soon, but he was not convinced. Could I blame him? I felt as if my whole world was falling apart, and that the ones I loved most were being dragged-down with me. I tried desperately to function as usual - to work, cook, clean, care for my son - but all of my usual duties had to be sacrificed as I spent my entire day retching into the toilet, where I would often pass out because I had no energy to walk to and from the bathroom.

When I went to an obstetrician to seek help, the options he gave me were the usual: hospitalization for the entire duration of my HG, intravenous feedings, and anti-emesis pharmaceutical drugs that had unknown long-term side effects with the potential of deforming and/or harming my fetus. No thank you! I tried ginger, raspberry tea, soda and crackers, acupressure, meditation – all the recommended home folk-remedies, but nothing worked.

Finally, I decided to try medical cannabis. If cannabis has been so effective in alleviating the nausea and vomiting for AIDS and cancer chemotherapy patients, than why wouldn’t it work for pregnant HG patients? I asked a Harvard medical doctor, Lester Grinspoon, who had been studying the therapeutic properties of cannabis for the past 30+ years, and he said that other women throughout history and in modern times have used cannabis for HG and experienced positive results. With his reassurance, I felt more confident in attempting to remedy my sickness with cannabis.

Because I had never smoked before, I first had to learn to take the medicine, but believe me, that was a welcome task, seeing that the herb worked WONDERS! Just one to two little puffs that first night, and the entire next day, I was well and functioning beyond belief. I went from not eating, not drinking, not functioning AT ALL, and continually vomiting and bleeding from both orifices of my body, to being completely cured. Not only did I eat and drink, I consumed food with a hearty and open appetite. Although I continued to have an acute sense of smell (characteristic of HG and/or morning sickness), I never missed a meal again, nor did I ever feel the need to vomit. And even more importantly, I was able to be a functional and loving mom again.

The cannabis worked so amazingly well that at first, I thought that possibly my mind was playing tricks on me, as if I was being deceived by some placebo effect. In order to test myself, I stopped taking the cannabis three times, and each time, the uncontrollable and violent vomiting would return. Finally, my 3-year-old son, with pipe and lighter in hand, begged me: “Mommy, PLEASE, take your medicine!” That’s when I knew that cannabis truly works, and that yes, I could look forward to enjoying a well-nourished and dignified pregnancy.

Not only did the cannabis save my son from not having a mom during the duration of my hyperemesis, it saved the life of my child within my womb. That child, whom I endearingly call my “marijuana baby,” is nearly two years old and is a pure joy. Everyday, I am grateful for her bright and vivacious existence. Developmentally, she has proven to be very advanced for her age. She began walking at 8.5 months when the norm is usually 11-12 months, and she began expressing herself quite articulately since she was 1.5 years old. Her teachers at the UCLA Children Center frequently comment on how mature and advanced she is in her motor, social, and cognitive abilities. I was also informed by one of her teachers that when the university pediatricians visited the school to conduct research in child development, they were highly impressed by her apparent advanced abilities though she continues to be the youngest in her classes (which are grouped according to a child’s development). So for my situation, it is safe for me to conclude that my choice to use cannabis as a therapeutic option for my HG symptoms was a positive and beneficial decision with healthy and quite amazing results for my daughter.

And no, I am NOT a “drug addict", as the stigma would possibly dictate. I knew my HG had subsided by the second trimester when one morning I took a puff of cannabis and began to feel a bit dizzy. At first, I thought my medicine stopped working but soon realized it was the HG that had ceased and I longer needed to use the herb.

While one who is susceptible to nausea easily vomits pills, smoking in this situation is actually a much more ideal route of administration. The HG mom accurately and instantaneously gages the dosage of each treatment according to how she feels each time, unlike pills and suppositories that have delayed effects and often leave one feeling “knocked-out” all day. This process of self-regulating is especially ideal for women who find empowerment in being in control of her own medicine and in tune with her own body. In closing, I am in disbelief by how our government has kept such a valuable herb from so many ailing women (and babies in vitro). If I did not experience the cannabis first-hand, I would not have believed its truly effective and gentle therapeutic powers.