Navigating the Isolation of Hyperemesis and Ptyalism During Pregnancy


Pregnancy is often described as a magical time filled with joy, anticipation, and a profound connection to new life. However, for some women like myself, this incredible journey can take an unexpected turn, revealing a side of pregnancy that is far from idyllic. In my case, hyperemesis and severe ptyalism turned what should have been a joyful experience into a battle against my own body.

Hyperemesis wasn't just confined to the physical impact; it seeped into every aspect of my life. The exhaustion was palpable, both physically and emotionally. As the weeks stretched on, I found myself questioning my strength and ability to endure. The excitement of impending motherhood was overshadowed by the persistent feeling of being trapped in a nauseous haze.

I had a constant, extreme, metallic taste in my mouth, which changed the taste of everything I ate. Even my favorite foods and drinks were suddenly disgusting. I could barely sip water without vomiting. I lost weight and became severely dehydrated. A trip to the ER established I had high ketones and needed an IV to hydrate me.

The exhaustion was relentless. It went beyond the fatigue associated with typical morning sickness. Every step felt like trudging through quicksand, and simple tasks like walking upstairs would render me bed bound.

As the weeks progressed, I began to experience an unusual symptom: excessive salivation, known as ptyalism. Initially, I brushed it off as a normal part of pregnancy, assuming it would pass. Little did I know that my life was about to take a drastic turn.

As ptyalism intensified, I found myself drowning in a constant flow of saliva. It was relentless, affecting my ability to speak, eat, and even breathe at times. The excessive drooling brought with it a host of other issues, including dehydration, malnutrition, and sleep deprivation. I used to be an outgoing and sociable person, but I withdrew from others. It felt like silent struggle I was battling against my body that nobody seemed to understand. I found myself in a constant state of despair as copious amounts of saliva overwhelmed me, affecting every aspect of my daily life. The nausea and saliva were relentless, I felt like a prisoner within my own body.

I had to carry tissues and cups around with me. I avoided going out or talking to people. If someone had to come to our house, to do repairs for instance, I panicked. How would I talk to them with saliva pooling in my mouth? I literally could not go a minute without my cup or tissues. Going out in public or speaking to people was humiliating. Did people know? Could they tell?

Driven by desperation, I embarked on a quest to find answers. Countless doctor visits, online research, and discussions with fellow sufferers led me to the realization that severe ptyalism was a rare condition, with limited awareness even among healthcare professionals. The reality of how rare and little known this condition was hit me when my dentist told me that she also had to carry a cup around with her during her pregnancy. I told her, the medical professional, that it sounds like she had Ptyalism! The lack of information only added to my frustration, leaving me feeling isolated and unheard.

In my darkest moments, I discovered the power of support networks. One particular Facebook group connected me with other women who had experienced or were currently battling ptyalism. It provided a lifeline. Sharing our stories, triumphs, and setbacks became a source of comfort and understanding. Together, we provided each other with empathy and encouragement.

Some of the tips I found for tackling this awful condition were:

  • Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Regularly brush teeth, gums, and tongue.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink water throughout the day, try cold water or ice chips.
  • Chew Sugar-Free Gum or Snack on Hard Candy: Stimulates saliva flow discreetly and helps with awful taste in the mouth.
  • Chew raw ginger.
  • Snack on dry foods such as pretzels.
  • Avoid Trigger Foods: Avoid spicy or sour foods that increase saliva.
  • Avoid dairy.
  • Consider Medications: Some prescribed medications reduce saliva production. None worked for me, and they had awful side effects.
  • Acupuncture: Some find relief through acupuncture for excessive salivation. This didn't work for me but has for others.
  • Manage Reflux: Address GERD symptoms to reduce excess saliva production.
  • Breathe Through the Nose: May reduce saliva production compared to mouth breathing.

Unfortunately, nothing worked for me.

I carried a protein shaker bottle because it had a wide opening. I covered it with a Nalgene sleeve for discretion. I also slept with a towel in my mouth to avoid choking in my sleep. Just writing this blog and remembering those days brings me anxiety. It's difficult to express how much it affected me physically and mentally.

As I recount my struggle, it's my hope that this story will shed light on the difficulties some women face during pregnancy and inspire a culture of empathy and support. Pregnancy, though a unique and beautiful journey, can be exceptionally challenging for some, and acknowledging these struggles is a crucial step toward fostering compassion and understanding.

aurora family photographer - image of a blender bottle covered by a Nalgene cover

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