It seems being a royal isn’t the only exclusive club the Duchess of Cambridge is a member of these days.
With news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (AKA Kate and Wills) are expecting baby numéro trois, Hyperemesis Gravidarum or severe pregnancy sickness, is back in the spotlight.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum affects only one in about 100 pregnancies, but it’s an exclusive club that no pregnant woman really wants to join. For the mama-to-be, it means severe, excessive vomiting and constant, unrelenting nausea. In summary, really good fun for everyone involved.
The Duchess of Cambridge suffered the condition with both her previous pregnancies which unfortunately made her a prime candidate to suffer it again this time around. Kate Middleton has already canceled one scheduled public appearance and it’s likely more will follow as her pregnancy progresses. And while the Duchess was treated in hospital when pregnant with Prince George, this time doctors are treating her at Kensington Palace.
While the exact cause of HG is unknown, there is thought to be a direct link to hormonal changes, with some women feeling them (and their impact) more than others.
Tales of woe from the toilet bowl
Similar to the Princess, I’m also currently preggers with my third child (we also share a rather fetching collection of tiaras. Okay, that’s a lie). Unlike Kate however, I didn’t suffer nausea and vomiting until this pregnancy. I also scrub my own toilets which I’m fairly certain isn’t part of royal responsibilities, but that’s another topic entirely.
Until I fell pregnant this time around, the concept of ‘severe pregnancy sickness’ seemed like a bit of a myth. I knew women who’d experienced it. I’d worked alongside them and heard their tales of woe from the battlefield of the toilet bowl, but I still thought to myself; ‘how bad can it REALLY be?’. Clearly, fate wanted to slap me around the face for my arrogant lack of empathy. This time around, I’m blessed with the whole vomitous kit and kaboodle.
It started at four weeks. Constant, debilitating nausea from the moment I opened my eyes. Nothing seemed to settle my stomach. My previous go-to’s – ginger, dry toast, ice cold coke – didn’t touch the sides. The thought of eating was horrendous, but an empty stomach made things worse. My body had no clue what was going on. I had no clue what was going on. I was eventually prescribed first one then another, stronger medication when the first didn’t work. Thankfully, that second script helped relieve the worst of it. I was able to function as a mother and human being though it was an uphill struggle each day, until things finally started to ease off around the 16 to 18 week mark.
The lowdown on Hyperemesis Gravidarum
That’s another calling card of HG. None of this ‘first trimester’ nonsense. No, no, no. HG often hangs around for most of pregnancy. It’ll pop up to say hello via a sporadic and random vomit (as happened to me) or bout of severe nausea when you least expect it. The only sliver of silver lining? It does tend to lessen slightly after the 20 week mark.
A diagnosis of HG can be tricky. The condition is often misunderstood, and lumped into the same category as ‘morning sickness’ which more than half of pregnant women experience. The two should not be confused. Any woman who has experienced the former is likely to beat you around the head with a large and spiky stick, should you utter the sentence; “Oh yes, I had morning sickness” after they’ve just shared the fact that they’ve vomited 16 times before 9am.
Generally, a HG diagnosis requires symptoms like weight loss, dehydration, vitamin deficiencies and the presence of ketones in your wee. High levels of ketones indicate you are not getting enough to eat or that you may be dehydrated. There’s an inability to complete regular activities and a debilitating impact on daily life. Though not confirmed by medical sources, wandering into your GP/Obstetrician/Midwife’s office, bag of vomit in hand and wailing; “I threw up in a plastic bag on the way here. Dry toast makes me gag. I want to die,” may also help speed a diagnosis.
Severe pregnancy sickness does not respond to traditional treatment measures. Pack away the ginger tea and burn those acupressure bands because they’re about as useful as a pair of toddler shoes with laces (i.e. not at all). Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but generally involves preventing dehydration.
Modifying what you eat is usually suggested, alongside a variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications. Talking with your doctor is the best way to customise a treatment plan that will work best for you.
Hospitalisation and IV fluids and medication is the last resort for managing severe HG. For some women, they will need the hydration and relief that only a drip can provide. If you’ve reached a point where you feel that you are becoming severely dehydrated, it’s best to contact your caregiver or pay a visit to your local hospital for help.
Severe morning sickness or Hyperemesis Gravidarum isn’t the only troublesome pregnancy side effect. Take a look at our article about the eight other unpleasant pregnancy symptoms women have to put up with.