Emetophobia, How I love thee. Not really.

You know, I managed to survive my last bout of hyperemesis gravidarum with almost no long-term effects.  Considering some of the things other HGers have to deal with in the aftermath, I’d say that’s pretty lucky.  The only thing I really came away with is emetophobia.

Ah, emetophobia.

For those of you who don’t know, emetophobia is a fear of vomiting.  It can manifest in people in different ways.  For some just reading the v-word is enough to trigger panic.  Other people have trouble with seeing, hearing other people puking.  For me, it’s just if I throw up or get nauseated.

I first realized emetophobia was a part of my life when my daughter was a baby, she picked up a stomach bug, and, of course, gave it to me.  I expected discomfort.  I expected misery.  What I did not expect were the flashbacks and the panic attacks.  My husband tried to console me and remind me that it wasn’t HG.  The rational part of my brain knew this and agreed with him, but that part in the back, that lizard part, went into total fight or flight mode.

When I had HG, normal “sick foods” were triggers.  Water was a trigger.  Because of this, when the stomach bug hit, I stopped eating and drinking.  It was bad enough, that in retrospect, I really should have gone into the ER.  I wound up not eating much of anything for close to a week.  I got below my HG weight.  It was bad.  Really bad.  It took me a month to get back to normal and close to six months to get the weight back.

Emetophobia isn’t a discomfort with throwing up.  It’s not that it’s simply unpleasant and I don’t like doing it.  Does anyone find it pleasant to puke?  It’s an intense fear.  The intensity is akin to fearing impending death.  It’s as if vomiting will kill me.  I know it’s not rational.  I mean, duh.  That’s why it’s a phobia right?  If it were rational we’d call it self-preservation.

I’m not sure if what I have is actually technically emetophobia or more like PTSD from the HG.  Maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  All I know is that when I catch wind that a stomach bug is going around I freak the heck out.

My doctor has been kind enough to write me a prescription for 15 tablets of 8 mg ODT Zofran.  I’ve got 13 left.  How sad is it that I know exactly how much Zofran I have at all times?  Maybe Dr. K is enabling my fear by writing the prescription, but honestly, I felt a lot safer once I knew it was there.  I haven’t gone into emetophobic panic since I had it filled.  It’s my safety net.

Today, though, I overheard my next door cubicle neighbor talking about her niece puking.


Honestly, though, with all the HG prep I’ve been doing, the fear isn’t as bad as it used to be.  I’m still freaking out, but I’m not panicking.  I’m not sure how I will react if I actually catch the stomach bug.  I’ve managed to avoid one since that first one I got a few years ago.

The bigger question is this: How will I react when the HG hits?  Will it be different because it’s HG and my doctor’s willing to basically drop a nuclear bomb on it to treat it?  Will I panic?  Will I have flashbacks?  Will I have the dreaded anticipatory fear kick in when I find out I’m pregnant?

Why can’t I just have a normal pregnancy?

17 thoughts on “Emetophobia, How I love thee. Not really.

  1. When I read that word (emetophobia) on your site in an earlier entry, I immediately wanted to write an article about it because it really resonated with me. I too know EXACTLY how much Zofran I have around, feel panicky without it, feel intense and irrational fear with any stomach bug, and ditto with any time I think I might be pregnant. And yes, I did deal with a LOT of fear when I found out I was pregnant after my first go-around with HG. It doesn’t really go away…. But being prepared (and willing, as you say, to drop a nuclear bomb on it) helped a lot because I wasn’t a clueless first-time mom (like I was when HG hit the first time) who let things get out of control because I had no idea WHAT was happening to me. That was a big advantage. But I’m not sure the emetophobia ever leaves. Good times! 🙂


    1. Yep. I mentally count my zofran tabs on hand on pretty much a daily basis. (13 8mg ODT tablets residing currently in my HG travel kit under the sink)

      Healthy? Probably not. At least now that I’ve got a doctor who is on board and who approved my protocol, I’m not ticking through the steps of my protocol. Every. Single. Day. Now, it’s there. It’s good. I feel secure about it.


  2. I would hazard a guess that you’ll handle a potential bout of HG better than a stomach flu. Phobias often stem from a fear of losing control. You have no control over a stomach flu hitting, no indication that it is coming on, and no way to really ward one off. You’re approaching the HG head-on, know that it’s a very real possibility, and in a way, are choosing to face it in ways that you can’t choose to face a stomach bug.

    I’m not a doctor or psychologist, but I suspect that you’re going to do better than you suspect. No, it won’t be perfect, and you’ll have a few low moments, but I think that you’ll not be getting slammed with the full scale panic that comes with the “Oh, shit” feeling that a sudden exposure to a phobic stimulus can cause. I know I have a better grip on myself if I know that I’m going to encounter a needle than if I get told, “Oh, and we need a blood draw” without any chance for me to mentally prepare myself.


    1. You know, it sounds weird–9 months of illness vs. a couple of days–but I really think you’re right. With HG, I know I can go into the doctor, into the hospital and request IVs and meds and they won’t even blink. With a stomach bug, you basically just have to ride the darn thing out. I feel way more out of control with the thought of a stomach virus than I do with HG.


  3. Have you tried Hypnotherapy. I love it , especially for the FEAR OF. I think youd be pleasantly surprised at the relief Hypnotherapy can give. Hope you are open and can find one near you. What do you have to lose….oh the FEAR, anxiety, Panic. Just do it.


    1. I haven’t tried hypnotherapy, but I think at this moment it’s something I’d like to avoid. I know part of hypnotherapy involves dragging old fears and memories and finding the cause of the phobia. I know what caused it. PTSD from HG. I think hypnotherapy could probably help me deal with that, but I’m close enough to it right now that I don’t want to dredge up those feelings. The worst thing would be to drag everything to the surface but not have time to deal with it and resolve it, and then I would find out I’m pregnant and the HG is hitting in the midst of all those feelings at the surface.

      All of that said, some years down the road, I will probably seek out some kind of therapy to deal with the emetophobia.


  4. Hi there. I am a new reader of your blog and a two time HG survivor…Starting to think about doing a 3rd round. (I’m absolutely crazy, I know.)

    This post really hit home to me. I thought I was the only one who experiened this! If I even start to get a slight stomach ache, I go into panic mode and anxiety attacks. I start worrying if my 3 year old even mentions that his tummy hurts. If my toddler spits up I start panicking that we’ve got a bug. You get it the picture.

    With my 2nd pregnancy there was a bit of a freak out moment when I first got sick. More of a “Oh crap, I can’t do this again!” type of thing. But honestly, when I was right in the thick of it and I had no choice but to face it head on — I was a lot stronger than I thought I’d be. The anticipation of it seems to be worse than the actual endurance of it, if that makes sense!

    Best wishes to you — I’ll be keeping up on your blog. And I might need a little support when we do decide to do this all over again.


    1. I definitely know what you mean about the anticipation part. Exactly.

      But hey. Lay off the crazy talk. 😉 Us repeat HGers aren’t crazy! There are all kinds of people who have complicated pregnancies that go on to have more children. You’d pretty much have to call a big portion of the female, child-bearing population crazy.

      HGers like you and me and others aren’t crazy. We’re determined. And brave. Just remind yourself of that when you’re feeling down. Those are the words I keep having to repeat to myself. It helps! I believe it now!


  5. Is HG an every pregnancy thing? Is there any liklihood that your next pregnancy you won’t have HG?

    I’ve had emetephobia for at least 10 years that I’ve been able to process that I was having panic attacks, but maybe even my whole life. I used to carry Reglan in my purse at all times but I let my prescription expire because I was doing really well without it. I think when I get pregnant I will renew my prescription though. Even the idea regular nausea of pregnancy freaks me out, HG – wow. You guys rock.


    1. You know, I’ll probably devote an entire post to this, but the bottom line is, if you’ve had HG in the past, you’re probably going to have it again. Research is showing that it’s a genetic thing. It’s something you’re either going to get or not.

      What are the chance of you specifically having HG? From one emetophobe to another, they’re pretty low. HG hits a fairly small percentage of the population. According to wikipedia 0.3%-2.0% of the population. Take a look at your family history. Did your mothers, sisters, aunts have either HG or what they called severe morning sickness? If not, then you’ll likely do just fine.

      That said, you’ll probably be scared regardless. The anticipatory fear and the loss of control is the worst part. Why not write something up for your doctor when/if you do decide to have a baby? It sounds like you’ve got an understanding one. Quite honestly, though, if you can, I’d ask for Zofran. It’s a little heavier hitting and doesn’t have the potentially deadly side effects (suicide anyone?) that Reglan can have with long-term high doses. Definitely talk it over with your doctor. And if you get scared, and my blog is still around (because it sounds like this is a distant future kind of thing), I’m happy to lend moral support where I can.


  6. I have emetophobia, too. HG you suck! How heartbreaking is it, when your child is throwing up, and you know… you KNOW how much they need you and you just can’t help them. Can’t.

    I’m currently planning and preparing for a 4th HG pregnancy, so I feel ya’ 😦


    1. One thing I do that seems to help is to be really up-front with my daughter’s teachers at daycare. If there is a puke-bug going around, they let me know and they make special effort to keep her from being exposed to anything.

      The last time it was going around, her teacher made her a special little tea from leaves from her papaya (I think) tree to help keep her from getting it. It’s a Mexican home-remedy. I think the fact that she is still nursing also helps protect her.

      So far, we only had the really viscious one when she was a baby. I pray that we can continue to be lucky and avoid them.


  7. I believe I’ve heard it quoted that if a mama has had HG in pregnancy once, her chances of repeat HG are 80% or higher, and I’d tend to say higher. It seems to be more of a “will I have bad HG or not-so-bad HG” (if there is such a thing!) rather than “will I or will I not have HG”. As an HG mother, I think one of the hardest comments I got to deal with was “Well, every pregnancy is different. You probably won’t have it again.” Yes, there is an infintessimally small chance that I might have an easy pregnancy, but the hard-core reality is that I am pretty certain NOT to have an easy pregnancy. Betting on something like that is not helpful for me!

    Your blog is AWESOME! I love reading it! Keep up the good work!


  8. Wow! I had no idea that the puking phobia had a name. This has been a huge hurdle for me post HG – thank you so much for posting on this. First tummy bug my son got post pregnancy (at 8 months I think), I cried every single time I puked. I stressed and worried and had horrible flashbacks. It has gotten better for me, but the fear of getting pregnant again hasn’t gone away. Reading this post and all the comments following have provided some much needed words (hello etemophobia) and encouragement. I know you are in the thick of it right now, which makes this blog all the more precious to me. Thanks for sharing the hard stuff and keeping it real!


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