How Kate’s sickness affects many mums-to-be

The Duchess of Cambridge
The Duchess of Cambridge
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The Duchess of Cambridge has been admitted to hospital suffering from a violent form of morning sickness, experienced by many expectant mums. Grace Hammond reports on the condition.

One in 50 women suffer from the severe form of morning sickness which saw the Duchess of Cambridge admitted to hospital.

Christmas parties aren't to everyone's taste

Christmas parties aren't to everyone's taste

Kate, 30, is suffering hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), an extreme form of pregnancy-induced sickness.

Normal morning sickness (known medically as nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, or NVP) affects around 70 per cent of pregnant woman, and causes some degree of vomiting and discomfort commonly during the first trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy. HG, on the other hand, is more severe.

Those who develop it are constantly sick morning, noon and night and unable to keep any food or drink down. Other symptoms include dehydration, low blood pressure, tiredness, dizziness and weight loss, and HG can go on for much longer too – sometimes, although rarely, for the entire pregnancy.

The condition is so severe that some expectant mums have even terminated their pregnancies, rather than continue with the torture of constant sickness.

Dr Roger Gadsby, chairman of the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support, says: “We don’t know, as it’s her first pregnancy, how long the sickness will last – it might go off at the usual time of 12-14 weeks, but it’ll certainly get worse until she’s 10 weeks.

“But just because it’s very severe now doesn’t mean it’s going to go on right through the pregnancy.

“It only goes on for that long in a very small minority of women, and I trust it won’t happen to the Duchess.”

Women with NVP usually receive a diagnosis of HG if they’re ill enough to be admitted to hospital, 
where treatment 
involves being put on an intravenous drip to replace lost fluids, and anti-sickness drugs.

It’s unclear what causes it, though HG is more common in first and multiple pregnancies, and hormones are thought to be involved.

“I wish we knew what causes it,” says former GP Dr Tony Barnie-Adshead, a Pregnancy Sickness Support trustee. “There’s no doubt that it’s associated with the hormones secreted by the placenta. It’s certainly a very complicated process.”

The unborn baby is rarely affected by HG.

“The baby is the perfect parasite – it looks after itself and seems to get the best of what’s going,” says Dr Barnie-Adshead.

However, if the mother has severe HG and loses weight as a result, the baby may be a low birth weight.

“But other than that, the baby’s fine – you don’t get foetal abnormalities associated with hyperemesis,” says Dr Barnie-Adshead. “It’s not a bad sign for the outcome of the pregnancy, but it’s awful for the ladies who go through it.”

Consultant obstetrician Dr Daghni Rajasingam, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says: “The best advice for anyone suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum is to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluid.

“The condition usually subsides by week 12 and with early diagnosis and treatment, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect a healthy pregnancy.”