Earlier this week, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Britain -- that’s Prince William and Kate Middleton to us folks -- announced that a third royal baby was on the way. Unfortunately, the Duchess was also suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a condition she went through during her pregnancies with Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
HG has been described as an extreme form of morning sickness, but morning sickness often improves after the first trimester. HG extends beyond that time and can last the entire duration of pregnancy. According to the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation (HER), those who suffer from HG can experience numerous episodes of nausea and vomiting throughout the day. It can get so bad that it can lead to dehydration, weight loss (greater than 5 percent of pre-pregnancy body weight), or nutritional deficiencies if left untreated.
If you had HG the first time, it is likely to occur in future pregnancies with the severity varying each time. Kessa Thea Nielsen, a mom who experienced HG when she was pregnant with her baby in 2014, admitted to SmartParenting.com.ph through Facebook chat that HG scared her enough that she hesitated to try for another baby.
Kessa shared her experience on her blog, Little Miss Kessa. “It never occurred to me that hyperemesis gravidarum will rob me of the joys of pregnancy,” she wrote in a blog post. “There were times when I would wallow in self-pity because I didn't feel normal at all and I would hear comments that everything is just psychological and that’s all in my mind.”
Kessa shared that the nausea was so intense that she would hole up in bed. She was hospitalized twice, and there were days when she couldn't take a bath because she felt faint. “Every time I saw a sink, I would retch. Every time I smelled something strong, I would retch. A couple of minutes after I finished eating, I would rush to the bathroom to throw up,” she continued in her post. She felt guilty that she wasn’t enjoying her baby’s “kicks” in her belly because it set off nausea each time it happened.
Rapid eight loss of 5% or more (from pre-pregnancy weight)
Vomiting of mucus, bile, or blood
HER Foundation lists treatments for HG on its website, including various therapies like behavioral therapy, sensory deprivation therapy, and psychotherapy. However, HG sufferers will need anti-vomiting medication, which HER Foundation says the benefits often outweigh the risks. You also need a lot of bed rest, and IV fluids and nutritional therapy to ensure you get an adequate intake of food and fluids.
For Kessa, it was bed rest and nutrition through an IV that eventually made her condition a little better. Aside from her previously mentioned hospitalization, she was given anti-vomiting medication to treat her GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) because it was already causing a bit of bleeding in her esophagus. Her condition improved at the onset of her 26th week where the vomiting was reduced two to three times a day. And while she still threw up even up to the time she was being wheeled into the delivery room, Kessa told Smart Parenting that her baby came out healthy.
Now that her daughter, Summer, is already 3 years old, Kessa thinks she is now ready to try for another baby, saying “I’m more equipped to deal with HG in case I experience it again.” (She did get pregnant unexpectedly in December 2016, but she lost the baby a month after unfortunately.)
As for moms who went through, or are going through the same condition, Kessa’s advice is to read about HG to avoid getting scared or paranoid about the illness. She also suggests talking to other moms who have experienced it; she had no support group at the time of her pregnancy. HER Foundation says that it’s important to find an educated group of HG women who know what you are enduring. “So many myths surround HG, people will make rude and insensitive comments like ‘just eat some crackers’ or ‘Oh, I had that and just had to force myself to eat.’ You will find support on our website forums and Facebook page."
To date, HG remains a serious condition that is still misunderstood by many. Thanks to Kate Middleton and women who have openly talked about their condition, there is increased awareness and empathy for all the moms who are soldiering through it.