Headlines have hailed the Duchess of Cambridge is now pregnant with her third child and is again suffering from her third bout of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).  The princess’s stunning pictures exude poise and elegance during her pregnancy, but they are a bit misleading when it comes to what women go through when suffering from HG.

According to the HER Foundation (Pioneers in HG education and research), Hyperemesis Gravidarum is excessive, pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids, usually resulting in the need for IV fluids and nutritional monitoring. The inability to keep anything down results in a loss of greater than 5% of pre-pregnancy body weight, dehydration and keytone production, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic/electrolyte imbalance, and difficulty with daily functioning.

UCLA Health has recently partnered with the HER Foundation to create the first HG Care app for iPhones. They are looking for 200 pregnant women suffering from HG to help test it.

In the 60,000 cases of HG reported annually in the US, symptoms will sometimes resolve by the 21st week, sometimes not until the end of the pregnancy. Complications of gastric ulcers, esophageal bleeding, malnutrition, and the emotional toll of being isolated from daily activities, family, and friends makes this pregnancy symptom something survivors can only understand. The HER Foundation offers support forums for those who suffer from this disease.  This is not just severe morning sickness, this is a whole new level of hell!

The exact cause of HG is unknown, but The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) lists a few theories:  HCG (pregnancy hormone) imbalance, vitamin B deficiency, hyperthyroidism, gastric dysrhythmias, Helicobacter Pylori infections, and disturbances in carbohydrate metabolism.  It is also likely that you will experience HG if you were affected in previous pregnancies, have family members who have suffered, or are carrying multiples.

Medications and medical response is on a case by case basis, but HG must be diagnosed early in order to ensure the health of mother and baby.

There are accounts of previously healthy women having suicidal thoughts and becoming depressed because of the sheer pain that is brought about by this disease during pregnancy.  It can affect maternal bonding in utero and after the birth, as well as put a stress on family dynamics. The lack of understanding from friends and family, pain and desperation felt by the mother, and absence of emotional and/or physical support can be traumatizing to women.  The fact that some mothers continue to have babies despite HG is a testament to a mother’s love.  As Agatha Christie said, “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world.  It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”

Kate Middleton, with all of her grace and beauty, has brought to our attention this harrowing disease that mothers have been overcoming since babies have been born.  It is no longer referred to as a purely psychological issue, but it tends to be described as severe morning sickness, an erroneous term.  HG is much more intense, life threatening, and emotionally and physically debilitating.

This is our opportunity to be compassionate and lift up mothers going through this and support their family members.  Those suffering from HG may know that there is an end to their misery, but those 9 months are long and no one should be expected to carry the weight of a pregnancy and illness without receiving proper emotional and physical support.

If you are struggling with HG reach out to us.  Our doulas can help support you through your pregnancy.