“Have You Tried Ginger?” And Other Things Not To Say To A Hyperemesis Gravidarum Sufferer

Buckingham Palace this week announced that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with her second baby, and that she is again suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or extreme morning sickness. If it was just the first part of that sentence, I’d say, “oh, that’s nice” and move on, but with the announcement of HG, my interest and empathy thoroughly perk up!

In her first pregnancy, I found the plethora of comments about how she just had to suck it up, how she was ‘delicate’ and other disparaging remarks quite upsetting, as someone who had suffered from the same condition but now I just look at them as signs of ignorance. Honestly people, if you haven’t suffered from HG, don’t comment on it. As simple as that. Especially not if you want to say one of these things, because there are some things that you should never say to someone who suffers from HG.

Hyperemesis GravidarumEveryone has morning sickness. It’s part of pregnancy

Morning sickness sure is. Hyperemesis Gravidarum isn’t. Of the 671,255 births in the UK in 2011-12 one percent of women suffered from HG. That’s 6713 people who’ve been to one of the darkest places pregnancy can take you. They had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. The other 664543 had morning sickness. But they are not the same thing. Many HG sufferers start being sick before they know they’re pregnant, too. For me that was at 2 weeks, each time.

I didn’t get to lie around when I was pregnant. I had to work!

How nice for you, really, that you could. I worked through the 18 weeks of my first fight with Hyperemesis, but it was just me to look after (and my husband, but he can cook himself dinner, and the house didn’t need much cleaning with two adults at work all day.  I sat at a desk in my own office with a bucket by my side without too much impact on anyone else.

With my second, we moved house just as I became pregnant. I hadn’t unpacked all the boxes yet when I started throwing up. I didn’t until just before she was born. And I had another child to look after. Those were hard days. An excited, happy two year old, 20- country travel under the belt, had to sit and watch Peppa Pig for 26 weeks because her mama couldn’t get off the sofa without fainting. Hard days.

Other children of Hyperemesis Sufferers still have to eat. They still need their nappies changed. Life goes on, but most of us would be not ‘lying around’ if we had a choice.

Get some rest

[pullquote] If you love someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, don’t give them advice on handling nausea. Just ask them what you can do for them. [/pullquote]

Oh, between puking, fainting, feeling sick and trying to stay alive, being constantly thirsty, hungry, and generally gaunt, sleep is easy to come by. Rest, however, not so much. Because you’re still dealing with the bump, the SPD, the heartburn, the dreams. Everything that comes with pregnancy. Oh, and the vomiting, and the extremely isolating disease which knocks your confidence, your self belief and your ability to function as a mother, a wife, a friend. 

Have a ginger biscuit or toast first thing in the morning

It’s a great plan for someone suffering from morning sickness – fill the tummy, and help prevent nausea. It doesn’t work for Hyperemesis Gravidarum sufferers (everyone is different, of course). Eating anything, drinking anything, even water will make you vomit. It’ll make you wretch and gag and heave until you’re throwing up little pieces of stomach lining. Then comes the blood as you tear your oesophagus.

It’s like drinking so much you’re still legally drunk the next day. You wake up jittery and nauseous with a mouth so dry no drink can quench the thirst, you can’t even think about breakfast, and even water comes right back up again. It’s like that every day, all day, for some of us.

Be grateful. It’s the sign of a strong pregnancy

You can be so desperate to have a baby, be exhilarated by the news, be hopeful that the ginger will work, the bands will work, the magnesium will work, and then find yourself in a heap on the floor, convinced you’re going to be a terrible mother and your baby hates you already. You can start thinking about your ‘options’ or lack of them, even if it’s something you’ve never ever considered before. You can wish for death. Pray for it, in fact.

Back in the day they used to say that Hyperemesis was a psychological condition in women who didn’t really want their baby. Unless you’ve lived through this condition, you can’t begin to imagine how painful that is for a woman to be told, to hear, or have insinuated.

Charlotte Bronte is believed to have died from the extreme starvation, malnutrition, and dehydration associated with HG.  Don’t tell a woman suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum that she should be grateful or is lucky.

Wear comfortable clothes

By the time you’ve puked so much you’re seeing your stomach lining from the outside, or have ripped your oesophagus, you’ve pretty much lost the battle with bladder control too. What little fluid your body may still contain quite easily trickles onto the floor with each dry heave. Forget about clothes. It just adds to the laundry.

Just the feel of material against your skin can be enough to set you off, anyway.

You had fun making the baby…

That’s what blogger Rosie from Mummy And Boo was told by her midwife. You had fun making the baby… now comes the hard part. Wow. Just wow.

My number one most hated thing: Have you tried ginger? 

I’ve had my head in the toilet for 26 weeks. I’ve not run around with my child, I’ve not done anything for or with her. I’ve been fighting hospitalisation because I have no one else to look after my child, while my husband is the sole breadwinner trying to keep a roof over our heads. I have lost a ton of weight, rapidly, as well as two teeth from all the acid. I vomit every time I move. I’ve had to buy a new washing machine because the first thing I can smell when I wake up in the morning in the washing machine – a floor down and two doors away (sense of smell is heightened by HG). I haven’t seen my friends in weeks, have cried tearless sobs every time I’ve taken non-pregnancy safe medication in an attempt to stay alive while wondering what it’s doing to my baby, and I have had arguments with doctors about what medication will and wont work for me – this isn’t my first time you know.

Do you really think, like really think, that I didn’t somewhere in the beginning of all this, try ginger.

What a woman suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum needs is someone to take her child/ren to the park, or play with them in the garden. And feed them while you’re at it. Something that doesn’t smell after (like garlic or onions or beans). Take her laundry out of the house and wash it for her. Wash her sheets with anything not perfumed. Don’t wear perfume around her. Ask her what she needs. Bring ice cubes. Every pregnancy and case is different. In my first I couldn’t handle garlic/meat. In my second the smell of water was horrific. To this day I feel ill when I hear Peppa Pig’s theme tune. If you love someone with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, don’t give them advice on handling nausea. Just ask them what you can do for them. 

Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Aftermath

When you’ve survived Hyperemesis Gravidarum, you hold your baby and thank God that you made it, and that your baby made it, and that you’re both  alive. You survived. Then you kind of forget about it, or try to, at least, while you get on with feeding your baby, changing her and learning to be a mother. You kind of assume that Hyperemesis Gravidarum is gone, and you hope that that’s the end of it.

I did, both times.

And for Ameli it was. She’s suffered no ill fate from this ghastly condition. I assumed the same would be true for her sister, born two and a half years later. But things were different. During my pregnancy with her I was already running on depleted supplies, and the sickness was worse, and when I started throwing up blood at 10 weeks, I went on medication because by 12 I couldn’t get out of bed without fainting. That’s not an ideal way to look after an almost two year old.

The medication I was on – Ondansetron, also known as Zofran – wasn’t specifically tested in pregnancy and my doctor wasn’t happy about giving it to me, but I showed him information about it being used for Hyperemesis Gravidarum in the US, and he agreed. He prescribed three tablets a day, but I took one in the morning so that I could eat something at least, which would carry me through the day. Anecdotal evidence mentioned incidence of deformities and I didn’t want to take any chances.

Aviya was born at home in water at 42+5, a perfect baby girl.

At 10 months and 8 days she rolled off a bed, but seemed okay. She was a bit cranky for a few days and cried whenever we tried to pick her up, but on investigation she seemed totally fine. (My mother is a remote areas nurse practitioner, and my brother is a medical student, so they should know.)  At 10 months and 10 days she took her first step on Christmas day, but even so… something wan’t right.

I finally took her to Perth’s Children’s Hospital where they said that she had broken something – her clavicle or scapula, I can never remember. We treated it, and went about our business. After all, we were in Perth for my mother, who was dying of cancer.  I never thought much of it again, only fearing for Aviya’s health whenever my mother commented on a blue ring around her mouth, saying that I had to get her heart checked out when I got back to England.

Months passed, we found ourselves back in England, trying to find a normal life again. Ameli started back at  nursery, Aviya was running around, engaging in the world, doing the things that one year’s olds do. Her first tooth appeared, and then her second tooth appeared and as happens with these things, so did her third and fourth. Our girl was doing great.  Until one day I had a piercing pain in my nipple as she tried to nurse!

Her tooth had chipped! No, not chipped broken! It looked like a vampire fang! I felt awful! How could I not have noticed a fall that did that to her tooth! We went to the dentist and had it filed down, a traumatic experience for her, for sure.  Not a week later, guess what? Her second tooth did the same. Broken! I was glad her arm had broken in Australia and not England. At least there’s no medical record of it here. I mean, a broken bone and two broken teeth? I know what I’d be thinking.

Well, we took her to the dentist again, and again with the third tooth and again for the fourth. And again, and again. It was only when we discovered two abscesses in her mouth that the dental staff started to take it very seriously. They were going to put her on a waiting list for our area’s special care unit, but an hour later I got a call to say they were going to  transfer her to a hospital in London to be seen sooner.

Then the guilt sets in. The dentist said I should stop breastfeeding because that’s what’s causing the tooth decay (but not for the other teeth in her mouth?) Clearly, I’ll not be taking the advice to wean.

We brush her teeth, but probably not long enough.

Maybe I feed her the wrong things.

But no.

A bit of reading, and it turn out that – anecdotally of course – HG babies often have weaker enamel on their first four teeth due to malnutrition in the mother (or something like that).  She loses these teeth now, but her adult teeth should be fine. With removing them, however, there may be problems with her teeth descending as the ‘tunnel’ for them isn’t there. So she won’t lose her front teeth either. There’ll be nothing for the memory box.

But there’s maybe more.

While reading about all this, I found something else, slightly more alarming: again anecdotally, of course, but there are a number of babies who had  Ondansetron/Zofran who also developed heart problems – thinking about my mother’s comments about the blue ring.

Well. Nothing’s proven. But it’s a worry.

So my little girl has her first ever course of antibiotics for the abscesses. 

And we wait.

We wait for the GP appointment for the referral for the scan or whatever they do for her heart. Then we wait for the referral for her dental surgery. Then we wait and see what else life throws our way.

And whatever else Hyperemesis Gravidarum takes.

Did you have Hyperemesis Gravidarum? How has it affected your child or your life since having a child?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum – Pauper to Princess (or Duchess)

I awoke this morning to the news that Kate Middleton is pregnant and has been admitted to hospital with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I have felt nauseas since I heard the news and I’ve been actively avoiding reading any of the comments surrounding the press, because honestly, people are cold hearted and mean, especially when they are lucky enough to have no idea what they are talking about.

I’m not one that’s swayed by celebrities, in any which way, but as a first time mother, I too faced HG and I want to stand up in defence of the Duchess of Cambridge and say IT IS NOT JUST MORNING SICKNESS.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is debilitating. It is like being so hungover you can’t even keep water in your body. And it’s like that 24/7 for however long it lasts. For Ameli that was my life for 18 weeks. With Aviya it was 26 weeks.  

My advice to anyone who says ‘it’s just morning sickness’ is this: go out tonight. Get VERY drunk. So drunk you throw up all day tomorrow. Then imagine that day after day after day after day. Then imagine doing it with the world watching. Then feel free to comment on what the Duchess is experiencing right now. If you just had morning sickness, count your blessing, hug your child, and keep your comments to yourself. 

Like all diseases, Hyperemesis Gravidarum picks you, no matter who you are.

P.S. If you want to know more about Hyperemesis Gravidarum you can find out more on that link. I’ve written about what its like living with Hyperemesis Gravidarum and the general journey of life for an HG sufferer, including mourning the loss of a joyous pregnancy.

My Body, My Choice With A Backup – A Look At IUD’s

After I had my first son, I knew that I would want to get pregnant in the future but not right this minute and I wanted some assurance that it would not happen. I had been on hormonal birth control prior to having children and I was not happy with what it had done to my body over the 10 plus years I used it and I also did not like the possibility that it might mess with my precious milk supply.

I was much too lazy and forgetful for the charting and NFP that we had learned about through our Pre-Canaan classes before I was a mom. As a new mom I barely remembered to take my prenatal vitamins and I was exclusively breastfeeding, which in itself is a form of birth control called ecological breastfeeding or LAM but I wanted to be sure.

Just look at all the little doo-dads we have used over the years for IUDs

I couldn’t rely on knowing when my cycle would return in order and I wasn’t ready to trust my body to know when a cycle was coming. I don’t like and have never liked condoms and besides I am allergic and need to use only one specific brand. Who has time as a new parent to remember to put one on when you find that one moment of together time? That wasn’t going to work. So what is a newly natural minded mama to do?

I decided on an IUD or intrauterine device. I opted for the non-hormonal copper unit because I hated the hormone birth control and there was still the risk of interfering with milk supply. I was still taking a chance that I might have a reaction to copper since my skin reacts to cheap jewelry and I never really had copper around me before – luckily I didn’t.

I barely felt the insertion and I was only aware of the device being inside me for a few hours after. We weren’t completely positive when we would like to have another child (I was thinking in another year, he was thinking talk to me after we’ve been parents for a bit) so I liked that it could be left in for up to 10 years or it could be removed before that.

It contained no hormones so it was not interfering with my body in that way. It would however physically block sperm from meeting the egg or the egg from implanting.

Paragard packaged prior to use

I chose to use the IUD for around a year. By then I had seen some side affects from it and I really never saw the return of my period because I was using the IUD and breastfeeding. Maybe there is something to LAM after all? But we decided to add another member to our family.

I was expecting to feel some discomfort from the removal but I did not feel anything. That could be attributed to having a vaginal birth prior because some women do complain of discomfort during insertion and removal.

Overall though I was happy. I was not constantly worried that I was going to get pregnant before I wanted to but I also did not feel the way I did on hormonal birth control with the ups and downs of mood swings. After the birth of my second child this will definitely be a consideration for me again because just like every pregnancy is different, every post-natal menstrual cycle is different and I’m not taking bets that breastfeeding will work the same way again.


Information About The Author:

AUTHOR BIO: Shannon R writes at The Artful Mama and is Co-editor of Natural Parents Network’s Reviews and Giveaways. She writes about her choices in natural parenting as a working parent to a toddler and soon to be new baby.


A Recommendation For The Humble Condom

Continuing on the Contraceptive Options series, today we have Lauren sharing with us why her and hubby, Sam, love using condoms. Lauren writes at Hobo Mama and is co-founder of the Natural Parents Network, and it’s a huge honour for me to be hosting her interesting (and amusing) post.  I hope you enjoy it too!

I would like to present to you … the condom.

Not any particular condoms, either, just male condoms in general.

I’d like to recommend them to you for their consideration as a birth-control method for male-female sexual couples interested in preventing pregnancy, due to their many benefits:

  • Condom Embroidery Hoop ArtEconomical — in my own comparisons with other birth-control methods, condoms are a frugal choice.
  • Compatible — since they’re non-hormonal, you can use them while breastfeeding or in preparation for trying to conceive, and they won’t interfere with tracking your cycle.
  • Convenient — less mess. Don’t make me over-explain that.
  • Easy — less chance of user error than remembering to take a pill every day at the same time or schedule an appointment for a shot or other procedure. I mean, yes, some prep is needed, but that’s what practice is for.
  • Effective — somewhere around 90-98%. More on that later, but suffice it to say — no “oops” babies here so far!
  • Reversible — want another baby? You got it.

Now, obviously male condoms are also a great choice for preventing (potential or known) sexually transmitted diseases, so if you know you need to use condoms with your partner, then keep on keeping on. I also cannot guide you if you need to use a particular method of birth control for medical reasons. This article’s more for people in a committed male-female relationship who want to prevent pregnancy, are monogamous, and could or do use a different method of birth control but could consider condoms instead.

OK, so, my back story. This is firmly in the TMI category, but you knew that going in, yes? And using “going in” right there just made me giggle. Ah, writing about sex…

I started out my marriage on the birth control pill. I have severe acne, and one thing dermatologists loved to prescribe me was antibiotics. The antibiotics gave me a recurring yeast infection. And I do mean recurring. It turned out part of the reason was that my husband Sam and I were passing it back and forth to each other. Whoops! So my gynecologist told me we should start using condoms to protect each other.

Now, I have to explain that Sam and I come from a rather conservative religious background, and condoms were just not the done thing. Condoms were for … well, loose people. It took having them “prescribed” to me by a doctor for us to feel comfortable buying and using them. That seems quaintly squeamish in retrospect, but so it was. In fact, I’m kind of embarrassed to even mention this, but maybe it will help someone else also feel comfortable considering them.

It took awhile for Sam to get used to the difference in sensitivity, but once he did there were no problems. In fact, if you want sex to last longer (hint, hint), a condom can slow things down a little if the man’s not used to them. But, seriously, Sam doesn’t really even notice the difference now, and I never felt a difference (yes, even with those “ribbed for her pleasure” varieties), so if you or your man has tried condoms and found them awkward, give it at least several occasions before you rule them out. Think of it as an experiment. For science. Really test it out.

So, anyway, we used condoms off and on when I was having my little flare-ups due to my medication. The turning point, though, was when Sam got laid-off, we had to buy our own health insurance, and I started to reevaluate the cost of all of our medical care. Which brings me to Point #1:


Ed Note: In the UK, health care is free to residents, so doctor’s visits fees for contraceptives don’t apply, nor do the cost of the contraceptives. Condoms can be bought over the counter, and are quite expensive, but if you’re really hard up – no pun intended – you can get them free from your local clinic. I know ours will give you up to 30 free condoms every 90 days. (I just saw the sign on the door. Really.)

I compared birth control pills to condoms and realized even my generic pill on tri-monthly mail order was costing me about $0.50 a pop, plus doctor’s visits every six months for a refill at around $90 a visit. Assuming I would still go to the doctor yearly (or, ahem, every other year … or so) for a checkup if I weren’t on the pill, let’s add only $90 a year to the cost of pills, which makes the per-item cost more like $0.75. You can easily find condoms at drugstores and supermarkets in bigger packs that run about $0.50 a condom. If you don’t mind a little further searching, we were able to find condoms at Big Lots (unexpired, major brands) and on Amazon for more like $0.22 a condom or as low as $0.11 apiece. So, assuming we weren’t having sex multiple times every day (and, true confessions here, we weren’t), condoms were a lot more economical a decision. And just think, if you know the exact cost, you can decide how much sex is worth to you at any given opportunity. “Not tonight, honey. I’d rather save the 11 cents.” (In case you’re wondering, I also switched from dermatologically prescribed acne methods to over-the-counter ones that were cheaper and more effective. Funny how that works.)

If you’re using a different medical type of pregnancy prevention, your costs will vary, depending on how your insurance treats the visit, what the cost is for the procedure, and how often you need to see a health professional. Apparently, for instance, an IUD runs about 5-0 every five or ten years (depending on the type). Let’s say Sam and I have sex three times a week (yes, let’s say that, since it ain’t happening with a young baby right now) — over the course of five years, with the cheapest condoms, that would be $85.80. Ten years would still be cheaper than an IUD, at $171.60 See? Cheap. Now, if you can get reimbursed or deduct the cost of healthcare, that might mitigate the financial factor, since condoms are not considered a medical purchase. You’ll have to weigh out all the options for yourself and your family’s budget.


When I was trying to decide on a breastfeeding-friendly birth control, going back to condom use was a no-brainer. Since they’re an entirely non-hormonal barrier method, there’s no interference with milk supply and no transference to the baby. If you need a hormonal method, your doctor or midwife can point you toward hormonal methods that work better with breastfeeding, but I personally didn’t want to risk it. There are also other barrier methods, but the benefits of condom usage for me outweigh the other methods.

I also appreciated condoms when we were preparing for conception, which was incidentally around the same time as I stopped using my birth control pills for other reasons. As I weaned off the pills, I was able to see my true cycle emerging and I began to take my morning basal body temperature and chart my fertility symptoms. It was fascinating to me to see what my true fertility cycle was like. That honestly is the biggest factor in my not returning to a hormonal method of birth control. I hate the idea of masking my cycles again. I don’t know if this is simply an emotional reason, because I was happy enough on hormonal birth control before, but since becoming a mother, it’s been brought home to me how delightful and intriguing is the cycle of ovulation and bleeding, and I enjoy seeing it unfold as it’s meant to. I mean, I don’t enjoy every moment, but I don’t feel like interfering with it anymore. This is a personal thing, I do understand!

If you’re on other medications, you might find a barrier method a better fit for you as well. For instance, that combo of antibiotics and birth control pills? Not really a good one, after all. If you’re on any other treatments along with hormonal birth control, be sure to ask about any incompatibilities.


I seriously love how condoms make cleanup easy. And, here, just to extend the please-stop-talking-now factor, they can be beneficial when having sex during a period. Just saying.


Condoms come with instructions printed on the box. Follow the instructions. You’ll be fine. They’re cheap, so you can afford to throw one or two away as you learn.

Follow the warnings, too. Don’t put them on inside out. (Learning the difference between inside out and right side out was our steepest learning curve.) Don’t reuse them. Be cautious when taking them off — let the man grasp the edge before withdrawing and hold it on. And that’s about it.

Somewhat related, I’ve heard the Diva Cup and other menstrual cups can be incompatible with some women’s IUDs, which would be my next choice in birth control if I didn’t heart condoms so much. To me, that’s reason enough to stick with condoms, because making my period easy is worth it to me.


When Sam and I were first comparing birth control effectiveness, condoms were way down our list because of some reported effectiveness rates of 85 percent or so. That’s a huuuuge window of potential failure. Well, it turns out there are two types of birth control statistics: There’s what would happen in a lab, and what happens in the real world. The reason real-world condom effectiveness stats are sometimes laughably low is because people get to self-report their method of birth control. So, a person gets pregnant and is asked, “What’s your method of birth control?” She says, “Condom,” and that gets reported as a condom failure, even if she didn’t use a condom for the act where she got pregnant. So a more reliable effectiveness rating for unexpired condoms that are properly used and used every time would be around 98%. A lot depends on user error, in other words, rather than true condom failure. We’ve never had a condom break; only a few times have we had a slippage moment when withdrawing, and for only one of those times was pregnancy a concern. (This was very recently, just after the birth of our second son, and seemed to be the universe laughing at us for having finally stolen a moment to get it on.) I know you can’t go with what one person’s experience is with condoms as to their effectiveness, but all I can say is we got pregnant right away not using them.

12 Durex Maximum Love Condoms NEW! Larger and Thinner Condom for more Sensitivity and Sensation

You can add spermicide or use spermicidal condoms to boost the effectiveness factor, though for us that wasn’t an option, as Sam was allergic to the spermicide most commonly available in the US. (Speaking of allergies, if latex is a problem, there are non-latex condoms available.) We had a really tough time finding an alternate spermicide and gave up — with no unforeseen consequences to show for it. Then again, we are in a committed relationship and know we could handle having a baby at an unexpected moment, so remember to follow all condom precautions and consider spermicide if you’re very worried.


Another huge plus to me about condoms is they’re immediately reversible. Some hormonal methods, particularly injections like Depo Provera, can take a loooong time to clear your system and return your fertility. (I once used injections and had major hormonal withdrawal coming off them, with bizarre bleeding patterns.) Whereas, with condoms, if you want to try for another baby, you can do so on the turn of a dime. Which is, incidentally, exactly what we did rather spontaneously for our second baby — once again, we got pregnant our first try.

So there it is. I wanted to speak up for a method Sam and I have found enjoyable and beneficial to us, in case anyone else is in the same “condoms are icky” category we were in when we first married! Or, even if you’re more mature than that, if you’ve just never seriously considered condoms as a feasibility, give them another thought. They’re plenty easy, way cheap, and have low interference with your body other than just catching those determined little swimmers.

Have you used condoms? What do you like and not like about them?

Hobo FamilyLauren blogs at Hobo Mama about natural and attachment parenting and is the co-founder of Natural Parents Network. She lives and writes in Seattle with her husband, Sam, four-year-old son, Mikko, and nine-month-old baby, Alrik.

Maternity Photo Shoot With Urbanvox

*This is NOT a sponsored post

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have seen a few of these pictures already, and if you’re a follower on Facebook they’ve surfaced there a few times already, but now, as my little Aviya uncurls and loses her new born look, I’m finally ready to share some pictures with you from our maternity shoot.  I hope you enjoy them. (more…)

Birth Control Options Overview

As you know, we’ve just had our second baby, and while pregnancy and childbirth have been possibly the two most incredible experiences in a pretty full and eventful life, Hyperemesis Gravidarum has dictated that I won’t be having any more babies. It’s just too strenuous on my body and my family.  Which means for the first time in four years I’m having to think of birth control again.

I was on the contraceptive pill until 2003 and had problems with complete lack of appetite for a number of years. I moved to the UK and went on a local tri-phasal contraceptive pill and gained three dress sizes in three months. As a result I have definite fears of going back onto a hormonal pill.

I’ve asked a few of my friends to share their experiences with birth control with us over the next few weeks, and today Jorje from Mama Jorje starts us off with an overview of the different types of birth control she’s used or researched.

Thanks Jorje!


I am not a medical professional. This post is based on my own research and experience.


A large pile of condoms

Condoms are probably the most common form of barrier birth control. They’re available in different materials, sizes, and textures! I have never met a man that would prefer this form of birth control if they had any option at all. I only dated one man that didn’t seem to mind using condoms and I married him.

Conceptrol is a vaginal contraceptive gel. It is a spermicide you insert before sex. For even greater pregnancy prevention, you can use this gel in conjunction with condoms. I’m certain most men would prefer this gel to condoms (no numbness), but some men are allergic to Nonoxynol-9 (the spermicide).

I’m going to tell you from personal experience, you have to insert the gel before sex. Inserting it after sex is lazy and not nearly as effective. Yes, I’m speaking from experience here!

Hormonal Pills

This is, for me, what comes to mind when you hear “birth control.” I think of it as the most common form of birth control, although it doesn’t protect against any STDs. I was on hormonal birth control for a few years. There are an awful lot of side effects that can happen. You might gain weight, have headaches, acne, and mood swings. There are several versions on the market. The difference is in the specific hormones used and the amounts / balance of those hormones. There are pills on the market now that can limit your menses (period) to 4 times per year or less!

My general opinion after being on birth control pills, especially as a bit of a hippie, is that it is not nice to mess with Mother Nature. I understand some medical problems may need to be treated with hormones, but otherwise… I don’t think we should mess with hormones.

Pulling Out

This would technically be called coitus interruptus. There is some debate over whether pre-ejaculate contains sperm and can result in pregnancy, but no studies have shown this to be the case. There have not been many studies, though. The usual problem is not pulling out in time.

Depo-Provera® (The Injection)

In my early 20s, Depo-Provera was new on the market. My best friend and I decided to give it a “shot,” so to speak. This product is from Pfizer and is an injection. One shot provides hormonal birth control for 3 months. We both experienced the same results: absolute disinterest in sex. Neither of us wanted our husbands to touch us at all. So… it worked great as a contraceptive! No sex = no baby. Shoot, by that logic, it even protects against STDs! I sincerely doubt Depo-Provera gave all women the same issue. Since it is hormonal, I suspect you might experience the same side effects listed under hormonal pills above.

I never went back for any further shots, but my friend did. She thought maybe it was just an initial problem, but she continued to experience disinterest in sex for an additional three months after her second shot.

Years later I participated in a medical study for women with sexual dysfunction. There was some suspicion that some of my problem (not achieving orgasm) may have been a result of having used this product.


After having Sasha 2 years ago, we decided we were done having children. I researched Essure as a fairly new permanent birth control on the market. Here is the (very) basic rundown: The doctor goes in through your cervix and places 2 small pieces of metal that look very much like the springs out of ink pens into the openings of your fallopian tubes. Over a month or so, your fallopian tube grows to the metal, closing off the tubes with scar tissue. Then the doctor goes back in, using fluid and x-ray, to make sure your tubes are successfully completely closed.

This procedure is considered even less invasive than vasectomy. It seems a little invasive to me, but considering that they don’t have to cut you at all, I can see how it would be considered non-invasive.

I went for the preliminary appointment and had one problem with the process. They wanted to give me several drugs before the procedure. Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with the drugs they wanted to give me, but I was breastfeeding. The office assured me that the drugs were fine for nursing mothers, but I’m very selective and restrictive about drugs, especially when pregnant or nursing.

After deciding against Essure (until later, at least), I opted for an IUD.


Paragard® IUD

This is my ParaGard® IUD after removing it myself at home.

There are two IUDs on the market. The first and most commonly used IUD is the Mirena, which is hormonal. An IUD is a small plastic “T” that sits in your cervix and provides time release hormones for 5 years. You can have it removed at any time and get pregnant just as quickly as you could if you were on any other hormonal birth control. Considering the hormone angle, I knew this was not the product for me.

During my research, I found a lot of women felt a lot of negative emotions while this IUD was in place. Some women were so desperate to be rid of it that they remove the IUD themselves at home.


The second IUD available is also a small plastic “T” that sits in your cervix. This one, however, is wrapped in copper and hormone-free. Because there are no hormones, you can start trying to conceive the same day it is removed. It can also last up to 10 years!

We later decided we wanted to try to conceive one more child, preferably a boy. After some online research (see Mirena above), we agreed I would attempt to remove this IUD myself at home. I’m sure any doctor would strongly advise against this! It took me about 5 seconds!


The idea with this form of birth control is that it is nature’s way of spacing babies. While lactating, you are presumably not menstruating. This is not, however, fool proof. Your ovulation cycle can return before your first menses. It is absolutely possible to conceive while breastfeeding.

Natural Family Planning

I’ve practiced this one, but used it more in an effort to convince my ex-husband to try to conceive a son. The basis here is to monitor your cycle and your body to determine when, exactly, you ovulate. You can conceive several days before through several days after ovulation. I charted my menses and mucous on my cervix. You can find several programs, books and charts out there to help you track your data. Natural Family Planning is not just a form of preventing pregnancy, but also a system to use when trying to conceive. Controlling birth doesn’t necessarily mean preventing it, right?


This is a commonly known permanent form of birth control. Generally, the man is given some Valium to calm his nerves prior to the procedure. He is then given a topical numbing shot in the testicles. The doctor then makes a very small incision (or two) through which he finds the vas deferens (the tube that transports sperm). He then snips and removes a small section of the tube.

I was amazed when my husband volunteered to have this procedure, since he had previously been against it. There are lots of horror stories out there, but the procedure is really not that bad! Men just have a tendency to “talk it up.” He had to refrain from sex for about 5 days while he healed. You will also be advised to use a secondary form of birth control for 2-3 months until all sperm are cleared from your system. At that time, you’ll take a semen sample to a lab to be tested for sperm content. If you still have a normal amount of sperm, you may have to repeat the procedure.

Vasectomies are considered permanent, but they are reversible.

Tubal Ligation

Tubal Ligation seems to be very common among women who are having a cesarean section. It is very convenient to have your “tubes tied” while the doctor already had you cut open. This form of permanent birth control is much more invasive than a vasectomy because they have to cut further into a woman. The doctor makes two incisions, then severs the fallopian tubes.

NuvaRing and Wedding Rings

NuvaRing® (+wedding bands)

Tubal ligation is considered permanent, but it is reversible.

There are a few more hormonal and non-hormonal birth control methods available on the market. You can find out more through your personal doctor or Planned Parenthood.

Regardless of which form of birth control you choose, I sincerely recommend you research possible side effects. Even if you don’t think there are side effects with your chosen form, research it. There may be issues that hadn’t occurred to you.




Check back again over the next few weeks as other contributors share their experiences with some of these methods of contraception.

Birth Story of Squidgy – 13 March 2012

Our Squidgy girl’s birth story is a little bit of a lot of things. It’s still quite raw in my head, and this will probably all come out a bit rambly, but… it is what it is. It was imperfect, and yet perfect too. It was perfectly different. Perhaps that’s the first lesson I’ve had to learn in parenting two children. Perfectly different.  For a short birth, this is a long story. Here it is:

Squidgy, who is as yet unnamed, was born at 17:23 in water in our living room at home on 13 March 2012. She weighed 4.2kg, or 9lb 6oz, with a head circumference of 37.5 cm and length of 56cm. So,  yes. A rather big baby. By scan dates she was 42 weeks and 5 days gestation. By my dates she was 40 weeks and 5 days. Her placenta was fine and she was still covered in vernix and not at all wrinkled or looking like an overdue baby.

Her birth story started a few weeks before, but her labour day started at 3:45 on Tuesday morning when I woke up with contractions that were strong enough that I was moaning in my sleep and realised that I was disturbing Ameli, who was in bed next to me. I went downstairs and tried to write a letter to Squidgy, but I had said everything there was for me to say in the weeks of waiting, so instead I sat on the birth ball, did figure of eight’s and popped the TENS machine on to help me through pretty strong, but well separated contractions. I lay down on the sofa to sleep, and the contractions stopped for a while, waking me every half hour or so, till Ameli came downstairs.

I kept the TENS machine going, but started getting Ameli ready for nursery – I figured contractions were far enough apart that she’d  not miss anything by going to nursery.  She went, and I did my work for the day, and sent a few emails and finalised a few things. I didn’t expect things to progress too quickly, and figured there was still time, so I didn’t do too much preparation.

Ameli got home and her and daddy went for a lie down, during which time my contractions were powerful, but still about 11 minutes apart. I just relaxed on the sofa or the birth ball, and did a lot of dancing in the lounge during contractions, swishing my hips and doing figure of eights and focusing on my breathing.

Martin had partially inflated the birthpool in the morning, and I was starting to feel it was going to become necessary sooner rather than later. I finished inflating it, and cleared the lounge, preparing it for the midwives.

I let my midwives, both of who were off duty for the day, know that I was in labour, and then let the on call midwife, Deanna, who I had never met before know that I was in labour, but that there was no rush.  I had had a session of acupressure the evening before with a newish friend, Rhiannon, and had discovered that she was actually training to be a Doula and that she needed a few more clients before qualifying, so I’d said I’d let her know when I was in labour, and if she wanted to come over, she’d be welcome to. So, I let her know and she replied saying ‘Can I say that I’m secretly hoping to make it to support you!? I have felt so drawn to you the last week, it’s such a strong emotion to feel compelled to support a birthing woman!” Her reply excited me, and flooded me with energy and I looked forward to having her there. Also because I didn’t know who was going to be attending, midwife wise, I was happy to have someone impartial that I could trust – someone who wasn’t emotionally invested in the birth of a child or grandchild.

When Ameli woke up at 15:30, we went into the kitchen and started baking the cake in a jar that I had prepared a few weeks before. While we were in the kitchen, I became increasingly insistent that my husband needed to start filling the pool, which he began to do. And it’s about here that things started unravelling. Martin tried to attach the water fitting for filling the pool. When we’d tested it all, we’d had a different kitchen tap, but it has recently been refitted and suddenly our fitting didn’t fit the tap! He started fixing it to make it fit, and needed another pair of hands, so I called my mother downstairs to help him while I finished making the cake.  My contractions had suddenly gone from every 11 or so minutes to every 2 to 3 minutes, and I started feeling like I was bearing down. I phoned Deanna and told her I think we’re progressing fast. I let Rhiannon know, and at 15:33 she said she was on her way.

Just after 16:00 I tweeted that we’d made a cake and it was in the oven. I was in the lounge. My mother was drying her hair upstairs and Martin was still working on the pool. I was contracting and couldn’t sit on the birth ball anymore for the pressure. I leaned over the back of the sofa, but became concerned that my waters might break over the sofa. I moved onto the floor, because I was pretty certain that I was now bearing down, but I wasn’t sure. Somehow I felt uncertain, because no one else was concerned. Everyone else seemed to be busy with other things, and I had Ameli with me saying  “Are you breathing mama? Are you breathing?”

It was around this time that I became aware of Rhiannon arriving, and she immediately managed Ameli by asking her if she could go upstairs and get her favourite book, I think! I had another contraction before I could even recover from the previous one, and I told Rhiannon that I needed them to fill the bath because they weren’t going to get the pool filled in time.  At this point the midwife arrived and there was such a rush of activity, I started feeling quite panicked. I stood up, contracted, leaning in to Rhiannon, and changed into what I would be wearing in the pool.

I climbed in the pool and Rhiannon gave me something homeopathic so that I wouldn’t be sick from the gas and air Deanna had set up. Amazingly, I wasn’t. I didn’t have any reaction to it at all, in fact. Not even the wooziness I experienced with Ameli.

Ameli got in the pool with me and was very excited by everything going on. We were still filling the pool, I was having definite pushing moves, my husband was somewhere, sorting out the video camera, (which I noticed at one point near the end, and realised you couldn’t actually see anything. I’d intended to have it with a room view, rather than just on me, but had obviously never communicated this to anyone else! I meant to say something, but had a contraction and forgot about it) and my mom was somewhere in the room with one or two midwives – somewhere during all this, Tanya, my midwife who was on a day off, had arrived.

Ameli started wanting to do all sorts in the pool and I felt the need to go inwards and have space, so asked for her to be removed. She was not happy, and my mother grabbed her and took her upstairs to redress her. She screamed fiercely, which unsettled me, but they were back soon enough, and my mom started doing the activity pack with her. This pack was an absolute winner in my view-from-the-pool. There was enough to keep her busy, but she was able to be a part of what was going on. She was able to stick her head over the pool and see what was going on, but not having to be an active part of it. She didn’t watch Squidgy being born, but saw her raised out the water.  I was very happy with her ‘involvement’ in her sister’s birth.

Martin finally came and stood by me. He’d finally gotten the water up to the right level, and was able to be with me. I rested my head on his hand and told him I’d missed him. He’d been my rock in Ameli’s birth, and this time we just weren’t ready and I’d been doing it without him. He helped me breathe properly again and was available to me and meeting my needs in birth. I am very lucky to have him as a birth, and life, partner.

At this point, however, I was feeling frantic. Everything had moved so fast – the last hour had seen three people arrive, a pool filled, Ameli in the pool and back out again and somewhere the beeping of the oven to say the cake was ready too! – I lay in the pool pushing, thinking ‘No, no, no! I’m not ready! I need to focus. This hurts. Why does it hurt! It didn’t hurt last time!

I couldn’t understand where the pain was coming from. I know that sounds odd to most people, but there was no pain in the transition at Ameli’s birth. I was so calm, I was so focussed, it was so different. I said I needed everyone to be quiet because I couldn’t focus and the room did quiet down, albeit temporarily. I asked Martin to change the MP3 player from the hypnobirthing CD which I was just not able to focus on, to music. The effect was immediate. I was able to focus in on the music, sing along to the song and focus all my attention inwards. I felt immediately calmer, and my pain level actually halved. It was amazing relief being able to just internalise, and visualise. At one stage Rhiannon and my mother were singing along with me and I remember having my eyes closed and thinking they sounded like angels.

I also remember feeling my waters break very near the end – in fact I think Squidgy may have crowned just after. It was an odd feeling, like a ‘POP’ but I couldn’t say anything to anyone, I wanted to wave my arms and point, but I couldn’t move my arms, instead my legs jerked up and down. My eyes were closed, but I imagine I looked like chicken thighs jerking about. When I finally could speak again, I told them my waters had gone.

Everyone worries about pooing during birth, and at one point, I know I must have because I remember someone saying ‘where’s the sieve’ and I actually giggled to myself – although quite possibly only I heard it – because I saw the words from an article I read by Ina May Gaskin floating in front of my eyes “Where there’s maternal poop, there’s usually a little head that follows”.  I was excited about the baby head and choose not to think of the poop.

It wasn’t much later when Rhiannon said that they could see the baby’s head. I was surprised. I knew I was in transition, I knew it was happening, but again, it was so fast. It was as if I stopped fighting and started going with what was happening. I felt myself stop fighting it. It had been about an hour since everyone had arrived, but once I’d been able to focus in on what was happening inside myself, it took minutes – maybe 15 and Squidgy birthed herself the way her sister had. All at once.

When I felt her head, I said I want to pick her up myself, I didn’t want anyone else to touch my baby first.  Once she was born I remember someone telling me to pick her up, that I had to pick her up now, and I remember not moving, but thinking ‘no, not yet’. I think I mumbled something about ‘Where’s the cord’. Ameli had the cord wrapped around her neck twice, and we cut it straight away as we couldn’t get it unwrapped. I didn’t want the same to happen again.

That wasn’t a problem this time, however, and I picked my baby up out the water and put her on my chest. I asked for her towel to be given to me, and my mom handed it over to me. I wrapped her in it in the pool and we waited for the cord to stop pulsing.

She nursed pretty much immediately, I had some Angelica Root to help the placenta release and sat in the pool looking at my little…. Well, I had to look twice, because I had been so sure she was going to be a boy, but instead we had another little girl! I was so surprised – but we are both really happy to have another girl.

The placenta came shortly after the baby, and again, I was surprised by it. I ‘birthed’ this placenta, rather than it popping out. It was a strange feeling.

Martin cut the cord when it had stopped pulsing, and Rhiannon whisked the placenta off to the kitchen, ready for processing (I have had it encapsulated.) Ameli came to look at her sister properly, and her first words on the matter were “Can it walk?”

We all had a good chuckle.

From there it’s all a bit of a blur. The baby was weighed and weighed again, because we thought there was something wrong with the scale. She was so much heavier than we thought. I had a quick check, and then had a shower. Rhiannon made me a smoothie, and Deanna wrote her notes. My mom looked after both my children – BOTH MY CHILDREN!! – while I was finishing up (actually I have no idea what happened while I was showering, now I think about it) but when I came downstairs, my mom had the baby and Ameli was playing with her puzzles.

Deanna left, Martin made me some pasta, I shared the news with the world, and then went upstairs to bed. My mom called my dad and showed him the baby, by which time I’d fallen asleep. Someone, I think Martin, brought her back in to me, and so we slept, through the night, as newborns tend to do.

I woke in the morning, staring at this little piece of magic lying next to me, awed that we’re here again, that we’ve done this again, and blessed beyond measure. Not only the mother of two amazing beings, each so individual, but also a woman, an owner of my birthing experiences, floored once again by the magnitude and raw power of birth, proud beyond measure to be a member of the female gender and fiercely protective over the power that comes with it.

(I’ll write more another time about what I’ve learned from this birth, as there’s a lot. Also about our experience of an older sibling at a birth, and how birth preparation affected the birth.)


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Activity Pack Ideas For Older Siblings At A Birth

Preparing for childbirth is a huge hit and miss activity. There’s only so much planning, reading, preparation and thought you can put into it, and then you have to step back and let nature do her thing. Now throw a toddler in the mix and you have a whole new ball game.

I’ve been planning and preparing a home birth in the hope of having my two year old daughter present. We’ve read books to prepare. We’ve spoken about it. We’ve watched birth videos. I tried to do yoga with her in the room. She rode me like a donkey.  Really. There’s just no accounting for a two year old’s frame of mind. So really, when it comes to planning to have a toddler at the birth of a sibling, it’s taken every ounce of my pre-child project and event management professional experience to come up with a plan. And in true project management style, here’s a graph to show you what I’ve realised:

Jokes aside though, that 1% that I have ‘under control’ includes having someone here to keep Ameli entertained when I go into labour and need my husband by my side.  As I write this I’m having random contractions, and my ‘person’  – my sister – is still six days from arriving to look after Ameli!

I have, however, done what I can to prepare. I’ve prepared a Birth Activity Bag with some things that I know with supervision and attention will keep Ameli busy for some time. Since I have no idea how long labour will be, and I have no idea whether she’ll be awake or not, I have no idea if there’s enough here, or too much, but whatever’s left over will be great to share together and keep her entertained while I’m learning to breastfeed a new baby. (By the time you read this, I may have answers to all these questions!)

In our Birth Activity Bag, we have:

  • A colouring book of trains with wax crayons
  • A colouring and sticker book – Ameli loves stickers and they can keep her busy for hours. There are only about twenty stickers for this book, and I’m still tempted to buy her another, bulkier pack of stickers.
  • An unusual ‘pop out’ book. She can pop out all the pieces and build a 3D carousel. This one will need a bit of guidance, but once it’s built I imagine she’ll have great fun playing with it for a while.
  • A six-in-one box of puzzles I’ve taken out and individually wrapped so that she can be given them separately over time.
  • A construction kit which will require supervision, but should be fun too.
  • Dyed Pasta for threading
  • A sticker pack, which I’m sure will end up all over the pool, lounge and house!
  • A prepared jar of cake mix, so you can bake a birthday cake together for baby in early labour.

These are all things we’ve bought new for the occasion, but in reality, they don’t have to be.

  • I’ve also put a few LEGO pieces in a baggie as LEGO always provides a few minutes of fun
  • I will also add the homebirth books we’ve been reading so she can look at them during the birth, for comparison, so to speak!

Some other suggestions I’ve been offered or thought of, but haven’t yet put together are:

  • a digital camera (for a slightly older child – I’d worry Ameli might dip it in the birth pool!)
  • a photo book of the older child with plenty of pictures of them with mama and daddy – something to look through together.
  • a paddling pool next to the birthpool for her to pop in and out of.
  • a favourite DVD, a bag of ready made popcorn and refreshing drink.
These are my currently totally theoretical ideas for keeping a toddler entertained during a homebirth.
If you’d like more ideas for Activity Bags, whether for birth, travel or just rainy days, it turns out there’s a world of activity packs to explore.  Check out my Pinterest board for  Toddler Activity Bags. You’ll (all) be busy for hours!
If you can think of anything else that would work well, please share your suggestions below!
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