Pyloric Stenosis: when vomiting isn’t just reflux
If you’re reading this, chances are you have (or have had) a very ‘sicky’ baby. Chances are, your friends and family told you ‘it’s just reflux’. And fair enough, it might be. But it might not be. If you’re not convinced, read on to find out more.
My little monkey was always a very ‘sicky’ child. Ever since she was born, she’d be sick after every feed. While that sounds normal, the amount of sick wasn’t. She’d always vomit up at least half of her bottle, and then cry because she was hungry. We endured it for 3 weeks before we insisted on her having a medical assessment. She was diagnosed with a dairy allergy, and we were told that a hypoallergenic milk prescription would fix the issue. It didn’t. We took her back to our doctor countless times, and were berated for wasting GP time as she just ‘had reflux’. We tried countless reflux medications, but everything just seemed to make the issue worse.
Once my little one had reached 7 weeks, I’d had enough. After an evening of being covered in around 18oz of projectile vomit, I took her to A&E and insisted they run blood tests on my daughter. Sure enough, they diagnosed her with Pyloric Stenosis.
Pyloric Stenosis is a condition in which the valve allowing food to pass from the stomach to the intestine becomes too thick, and the hole closes. This means that nothing can get through, which leads to malnutrition, dehydration, and even death. Symptoms include extreme vomiting, lethargy, constipation, and less wet nappies.
Once admitted to hospital, we had to watch an NG tube be placed into our little one, to drain her stomach. She had an IV inserted to keep her fluid intake up, along with some vitamins, but she wasn’t allowed to eat. We were in hospital for 3 days in total before she had her operation, and we weren’t allowed to feed her anything, which was torture when she cried.
Eventually, we were transferred by blue light ambulance to a specialist children’s hospital for her to have laparoscopic surgery. The surgery took around an hour, and my little soldier had 3 doses of infant paracetamol in total during recovery. (What a brave little thing, adults have doses of morphine after similar surgeries).
Luckily, after having her surgery, the Pyloric Stenosis was cured and we never had to return to hospital for the same issue, however, others aren’t so lucky. PS can recur in 1% of cases, and for some people, it becomes a chronic issue which requires constant returning to hospital.
All in all, we were very lucky. Honestly, I think my stubborn nature went a long way in getting her diagnosed, as before I put my foot down, doctors were dismissing me as the ‘hypochondriac mum’.
What can we take away from this? Well,
1) Trust your instincts.
Mother’s intuition is REAL, and it can save you so much bother if you listen to it. If you think something is wrong with your little one, get them checked. The worst that can happen is that a qualified professional can explain to you (at length, if needed) that your baby is healthy, and reassure you.
2) Know your stuff.
While doctors often chastise patients for having a look at good old Doctor Google, sometimes it is your ally, and a tool to be used. Before Mini Me was diagnosed, a doctor incredulously asked me “what do you think is wrong with her then?” When I replied ‘Pyloric Stenosis’, a lightbulb obviously went off for him. He ordered several blood tests and an ultrasound, and sure enough, she was diagnosed. While I’m not saying that you should use Google for everything, but when you’ve been having the same issue for weeks, nothing seems to be helping and things aren’t adding up, maybe you should consider it.
3) Be kind to yourself.
While we were in hospital, I went through a phase of blaming myself for my monkey’s illness. As a mum, its only natural to want to fix things, but some things can’t be fixed by guilt. No, most things can’t be fixed by guilt. I felt awful for the fact I hadn’t put my foot down sooner, but eventually, I was just glad that I had done it at all. I often think about what would have happened if I hadn’t said anything to our doctors, and I’m so glad I did, because the outcome could have been so much worse.
Unfortunately, Pyloric Stenosis can’t be prevented, but it can be cured, and more new mums should know that it exists. If your little one is struggling with vomiting, especially in the first few weeks, please get them checked out, and if you’re unsure, get a second opinion. While Pyloric Stenosis is rare, it isn’t worth excluding as an option.