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Dealing with hyperemesis gravidarum

Here’s the low down on the extreme morning sickness making the Duchess of Cambridge so unwell.

Woman with morning sickness

Like many pregnancies, Will and Kate’s exciting baby news has been overshadowed by severe morning sickness. If you’re confined to bed with similar hyperemesis gravidarum symptoms, here are some helpful hints to get you through.

What is hyperemesis gravidarum?

It seems even being a royal won’t help you in the first trimester of pregnancy. An official statement from the Palace broke the baby news following Kate’s admittance to hospital:

“The Duchess was admitted this afternoon to King Edward VII Hospital in Central London with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. As the pregnancy is in its very early stages, Her Royal Highness is expected to stay in hospital for several days and will require a period of rest thereafter.”

In her research, obstetrician Dr Penny Sheehan explains that “nausea and vomiting affects up to 85 per cent of pregnant women.”

“A small percentage of women experience a severe form of nausea and vomiting known as hyperemesis gravidarum,” she said.

The exact cause of morning sickness is largely unknown, but is often thought to be because of increased hormones. In regards to the most common symptoms, Dr Sheehan says “although vomiting is the most obvious concerning symptom, persistent, debilitating nausea can severely adversely affect the woman’s quality of life.”

Continual vomiting can lead to dehydration and loss of nutrition, in turn becoming a great concern for mum and bub.

There is, however, good news. Dr Sheehan explains “nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy are consistently associated with lower rates of miscarriage” and while the condition peaks at around 9 weeks, by around 14 weeks gestation the symptoms should stop. Only a small number of women will continue to have symptoms beyond 20 weeks.

How can it be treated?

In cases of severe morning sickness, the key is adequate dehydration by consuming lots of water or drinks with added electrolytes or, as seen in the Duchess’s extreme case, through hospitalisation where treatment will occur via an intravenous drip.


If, however, you are experiencing the more common type of morning sickness, there are different remedies you can try at home. The Better Health Channel offers the following suggestions:

  • Don’t take drugs of any kind, unless your doctor knows you are pregnant and has prescribed specific medications.
  • Eat a few dry crackers before getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Don’t try to eat anything that you suspect will make you nauseous.
  • Eat small meals regularly, since an empty stomach tends to trigger nausea.
  • Limit or eliminate fatty and spicy foods.
  • Choose high carbohydrate and high protein foods.
  • Avoid cooking or preparing foods whenever possible.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water.
  • Many studies have shown that ginger can ease the symptoms.
  • Vitamin B6 supplements can be useful, but doses above 200 milligrams per day can actually be harmful.
  • Wear loose clothes that don’t constrict the abdomen.

If at any point during your pregnancy you begin to feel unwell, it is always best to talk to your doctor and let your partner or family know so they can keep an eye on you.

Note: The above article should not be viewed as a tool for diagnosis or treatment. If you have any health concerns regarding your pregnancy or are considering taking supplements or medications, consult your doctor first.

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