Kate Middleton

While pregnant Duchess Kate suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum: What was it?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

After the news that Duchess Kate is expecting her third child came out the public squealed with delight, but many of us were a bit concerned for her and baby’s well-being.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is real, but there is no cure for it because nobody knows what exactly causes it.

The Duchess of Cambridge, after her two pregnancies, has hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). It’s a condition that is characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss and dehydration. Between 0.5% and 3% of pregnant women suffer from HG, says Sara Twogood, assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynaecology at Keck Medicine of USC. She also added, “a very rough estimate is about 100,000 women per year suffer from HG in the US annually.”

This condition doesn’t have a precise number of diagnoses to reference is part of a bigger problem: HG runs on a spectrum, with no distinct definition. If you have a sister who has hyperemesis gravidarum you have a 17-fold increase risk of having it. “Different clinicians use different criteria to meet the definition of [HG],” says Twogood. “There’s really no strict definition.”

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Some women may suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum and not know it, which makes sense given that two of its key symptoms (nausea and vomiting) are often seen in normal pregnancies. A few of them may not know that what they’re experiencing isn’t just what to expect when they’re expecting.

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“25% of pregnant women will have nausea and 50% of them will experience nausea and vomiting,” Twogood says of normal pregnancies, adding that even clinicians can overlook HG. A clear definition of HG may be lacking, and cases could slip under the medical radar, but Twogood underscores that HG has clear symptoms including severe nausea, persistent vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss. 

“If you lose five per cent of your pre-pregnancy body weight or more it is considered HG”. “This is usually accompanied by an electrolyte imbalance and dehydration.” Why aren’t there more answers? For one thing, HG wasn’t taken seriously as a medical problem until recently. It was either shrugged off as a bad case of morning sickness (evidently, it still can be) or was dismissed as a purely psychological problem.

HG can actually be fatal: “Deaths from HG are hard to track because usually the cause of death is something secondary to [but linked to] HG, such as a heart attack, stroke or Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which is caused by a vitamin B1 deficiency, so their death reports don’t necessarily list HG,” says Fejzo. While there is no cure for HG, there are ways of treating it. You need to consult a doctor, but what works for one sufferer may not work for another. But medications such as Dicleges, Phernegan, Ondansetron, and Reglan are among those which can be used to manage HG symptoms.

Even with treatment, HG can completely wipe you out and alienate you from your family and routine, making it not only a physical hardship but an emotional one, too. Women suffering from HG often have to sleep in separate rooms from their partners because the sheer smell of another person can be gag-worthy.

Also read: Duchess Kate gave a rare insight into her incredibly close bond with father Michael Middleton.

HG isn’t a walk in the park for anybody. It’s something that most women can manage with the right treatment and a solid support system. And while it may feel like forever, it does end.

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