Thursday 21 September 2017

'Imagine your worst hangover for nine months' - Irish mothers' sympathy for Kate Middleton's pregnancy sickness

Britain's Catherine Duchess of Cambridge at the White Garden in Kensington Palace on August 30, 2017. Reuters/Hannah McKay/File Photo
Britain's Catherine Duchess of Cambridge at the White Garden in Kensington Palace on August 30, 2017. Reuters/Hannah McKay/File Photo
Princess Charlotte with her mother the Duchess of Cambridge as they visit Airbus in Hamburg, Germany with the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Geaorge. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Geraldine Gittens

When 36-year-old Michelle Dolan became pregnant with her second son Jake, she thought she'd have a pregnancy glow to look forward to.

Instead, a permanent "grey glistening shadow" passed over her face, she says, and she endured nine months of constant sickness.  

She had hyperemesis gravidarium (HG), the same form of extreme nausea and vomiting that Kate Middleton is suffering from in her third pregnancy.

Last weekend, when Kensington Palace announced that Kate was pregnant, it said she was being cared for at Kensington Palace because she had HG for the third time.

Michelle Dolan with her two health boys Eli and Jake.
Michelle Dolan with her two health boys Eli and Jake.

"I've massive sympathy for Kate," Michelle, a photographer living in Galway, says. "There are a lot of people who say 'at least she can get daily drips and health care and childcare' but I wouldn't say that. I know what it's like, it's like having bile in your throat all the time."

"Imagine your worst hangover and you've got that for nine months," she said.

"I looked grey, I looked horrible the whole time. I know she has hairdressers and make-up but I wouldn't like to be her having to make public appearances."

Dr Aoife Ni Sheaghdha, a GP at the Trinity Clinic in Dublin city centre, suffered from hyperemesis gravidarium herself twice and is now a trustee of Hyperemesis Ireland, a support network for sufferers.

"Women often think how they're feeling is normal. Even though I'm a GP myself I was surprised when my own doctor said 'no, you need to go to hospital. You need an IV (intravenous fluids)'. My own mum now says she thinks she had hyperemesis, but at that time she didn't know it."

"Part of the charity's work is to get awareness out there, and I suppose the Duchess of Cambridge has done us a great favour in that regard."

People who have never had HG tend to pass it off as morning sickness, but it's something much more severe, Michelle said.

"You wake up but you haven't really slept, you're already tired when you wake up. I went from having cereal and almond milk, to porridge, and then I was sick with that so I just had toast. You just have absolutely no energy because you're either not eating all day long or you're physically sick again."

"I couldn't eat with my family because the smell would have me in the bathroom. Everything had to be plain, really plain, I ate cheese sandwiches, I ate a lot of cheese. I never ate dinner from seven months on. My first baby was small, and then I was afraid this baby was going to be small again."

"I had it literally until the placenta was taken out. With my first son Eli I didn't take the toast in the hospital, but with Jake, the sickness went away and I remember thinking that the hospital food was delicious and you know, I don't think hospital food is delicious."

"You can't plan anything. I worked as a photographer. I had to cancel because you'd be afraid you were going to be sick on people. With the motion sickness, I couldn't be in the car for longer than ten minutes."

"You can't go out without plastic bags or wipes in case you'll be sick. You're just trapped. You live at home. If you have a child already, you feel guilty. I used to cook and bake all of the time with my son but I couldn't do that with him anymore. We just did colouring in and playing with sand for a few months."

"If I had some advice I'd tell people not to feel guilty and to reach out to the support group because everyone there knows how you're feeling. You're only going to understand if you've been through it."

HG affects one per cent of pregnancies. There is a genetic component to it, and it is related to human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG, the pregnancy hormone). 

However, Dr Ni Sheaghdha said: "They don't know why some people get it and some people don't."

"In the delivery room you can feel it lifting. It really is connected to the pregnancy."

"It's literally like having a vomiting bug for nine months. Some people lose weight, you're dehydrated, and you might not be able to get to work, and that can be difficult when you're about to go on maternity leave."

She added: "If you've a growing family and you're trying to work it's a huge thing. Women might need reduced working hours. A lot of women unsurprisingly have mental health issues being isolated during the pregnancy."

Nine months of severe sickness takes its toll. But of course, each mother says it's worth it.

"Both my boys are super healthy, happy little boys and even though I was drained after the whole pregnancy I'm completely back to myself now," Michelle said.

For more information, see www.hyperemesis.ie

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