The Duchess of Cambridge has had two notoriously-difficult pregnancies, marked by hyperemesis gravidarum — that is, extreme nausea and vomiting that makes normal morning sickness seem like a walk in the park. Fortunately, some good things have come out of it. One of those good things is, of course, two beautiful children, one of which will likely be the King of England decades from now. The other good thing is that her plight has encouraged women, both British and non-British, to talk about what has otherwise been treated as a shameful secret.
As the Today Show reports, hyperemesis gravidarum is sometimes discussed in the context of morning sickness. That’s not fair, says Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, division director of maternal-fetal medicine and medical director of obstetrical services at Magee Womens Hospital of UPMC. While morning sickness is mostly an inconvenience, hyperemesis gravidarum brings on nausea and vomiting so severe that the patient loses weight and even risks malnourishment from the body not being able to keep anything down.
What’s more, while morning sickness generally only lasts for a few weeks, hyperemesis gravidarum lasts for the entire pregnancy.
“It is an extreme manifestation of what we think of as typical morning sickness. It’s essentially a state of persistent nausea and vomiting.”
Before Princess Kate openly and publicly went through it, some pregnant women were afraid to talk about it. Some mistakenly believed that they were just going through routine pregnancy illness. Others, such as Seattle’s Amy Tsang, was afraid that talking about it would cost her her care provider.
“I was so dehydrated that I was urinating clumps. I should have said something to my midwife but I was so scared she would drop me as a client. You get to a point where you are not telling your care provider you are going through this.”
Over on the other side of the Atlantic, before Kate made it acceptable to talk about hyperemesis gravidarum openly, some British women found little sympathy from their care providers, according to BBC News. Caitlin Dean, chair of Pregnancy Sickness Support, said that too many British doctors have been reluctant to take complaints of hyperemesis gravidarum seriously, or provide the right treatment.
“There is a range of medications all known to be safe and effective which have been around for more than 50 years. And there is plenty of evidence they are not causing any concerns.”
One British mom, identified only as “Lily,” said that her doctor was so unsympathetic that he or she suggested abortion rather than treating her illness.
“I don’t trust the doctors. They don’t take it seriously enough and it would just lead to another termination.”
Now that Princess Kate has started the conversation, more women are OK with talking to their providers openly and honestly about hyperemesis gravidarum. And more health care professionals are taking it seriously.
Princess Kate, for her part, is said to be “taking it easy” during this, her third pregnancy. She is believed to be due in late March, 2018.
[Featured Image by Julian Simmonds — Pool/Getty Images]