How Emetophobia — Fear Of Vomiting — Has Taken Over My Life And Prevented Me From Having Kids

I thought I would get over my phobia with age. That never happened.

How Emetophobia — Fear Of Vomiting — Has Completely Taken Over My Life Kleber Cordeiro / Shutterstock

Just to put this into words is terrifying and utterly humiliating. I am a 37-year-old female who resides in Cape Town, South Africa. 

I am nowhere near where I was meant to be, where I should have been or where I could have been. Not a single day goes by that I don't wonder "what if?" Not a single day goes by where I envision a different life. 

I have had no children and I never will. I have missed out on one of the greatest joys in the world. I watch family members with their kids and I wish that I had that too. Our children were meant to play together; that's what we always spoke about when we were growing up.


There are many people my own age I can't relate to at all. Most of my friends are much older than me and have grandchildren already. I've lost tons of friends over the years and I feel like a huge disappointment to those who love me.

What makes it all worse is that I have been in a committed loving partnership for over eleven years. My man and I have gone through tons of things together, so the relationship part is there. There are many people out there who don't have a trusting and loving relationship but they want children so I do feel lucky in some ways.

Most of my guilt comes from the fact that physically I was told that I could have children. There are so many women in the world who would give anything to get pregnant. Yet, here I am physically able to procreate but choose not to.


This will sound totally odd to most people and to be honest, it even sounds a bit crazy to me.

The reason that I will never have children is because I suffer from severe emetophobia, which "involves an extreme fear of vomiting, seeing vomit, watching other people vomit, or feeling sick."

I've always had a fear of feeling sick and throwing up. When I was growing up, I always thought my phobia would go away with time. I honestly believed that the older I got the less it would bother me. I was convinced that at some point I would not be completely terrified of morning sickness and feeling ill during pregnancy.

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My emetophobia has not only controlled many aspects of my life such as avoiding planes, adventure activities, boats, trains, cars, and much more, but it has completely taken control over my life. When I used to get my period when I was in middle school, I would live in constant fear of feeling sick. It got so bad that I had to stay home from school every month.

When I was old enough, I went on contraception injection to stop my period — and I've been on it ever since. I never tell people the truth about why I'm on it which is: I'm terrified of nausea and throwing up. I've made up all sorts of excuses over the years. 

I have run to the doctor for almost anything that could make me nauseous. If I wake up with the slightest stomach bug, which is not even a stomach bug, I start to panic. I panic that I'm going to feel worse to the point where I'll throw up. I have gone to the doctor so many times just to make sure that doesn't happen.


I'm often unable to sleep at night because I'm petrified of developing any sort of cancer — I don’t fear the dying part; I'm petrified of having to have chemo because I won’t be able to deal with nausea.

I know that if I get any type of illness — no matter how big or small — it psychologically will make me feel sick. If I hear bad news I usually start to feel sick immediately.

For other people throwing up is not a big deal. Although they don’t particularly like the sensation, it's not something that has prevented them from living. To this day if I ever throw up, it's a massive deal for me that takes months to recover from.

Fortunately, I have not thrown up in many years; the last few times I threw up was in my twenties from drinking too much. Luckily when I threw up it was a once-off, quick thing and I was too intoxicated to even know what was going on. Years later I gave up drinking completely as the thought of me getting sick was too much to handle.


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I have been prescribed all sorts of anti-nausea medication and I keep a big supply at home. I always take it even if I just wake up feeling a little bit off. I will do absolutely anything and everything to avoid the slightest feeling of nausea. 

I'm so jealous of people who don't have this particular phobia because it really takes over your life. 

I'm unable to count the number of times that I have bailed out of arrangements with friends or family because I was feeling just a tiny bit sick.

I'm also scared of extreme heat and sunburn as those two things can result in nausea. I have missed out on many wonderful and exciting things that life has to offer because of my phobia.


I generally never tell people the real reasons for bailing on things. I've been able to avoid throwing up for years and my partner knows if I ever throw up from being sick he should call an ambulance. When people tell me that they ate something that was a bit “off” and they casually got sick, I envy how nonchalant they are about it.

I wish this wasn’t my life and more than anything I wish I hadn’t missed out on so many wonderful experiences. I desperately wish that my emetophobia didn’t exist because I would have loved to travel the world without worrying.

On the positive side, I have an amazing partner who has given up tons of wonderful things just to be with me, because he genuinely cares and understands.


I carry around a ton of guilt and I wouldn’t wish emetophobia on my worst enemy. When I sit and think about my life and how emetophobia has impacted it, I literally feel sick. The irony.

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Lauren Gerber has lived in Cape Town, South Africa her entire life. She has a degree in Psychology and has worked in many roles, such as online consultant, writer, and social media manager.