Just like Kate: Two mums talk about their extreme morning sickness
As Kate Middleton is once again being treated for Hyperemesis Gravidarum (acute morning sickness) in Kensington Palace, two mums recall their extreme experiences.
Most pregnant women suffer from morning sickness. They feel queasy first thing, they have a heightened sense of smell, they go off certain foods, and they may actually vomit. It's unpleasant, but it passes.
For some women though, morning sickness is utterly debilitating. Suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum -- a term meaning 'vomiting a lot in pregnancy' -- these women can't keep anything down. They become dehydrated and, in its severest form, the illness can cause danger to the baby.
According to Sky News, Kate is currently being looked after by doctors at Kensington Palace."As with her first pregnancy, The Duchess is suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum [acute morning sickness]," a representative said.
When pregnant with Prince George, Kate was hospitalised for three days with morning sickness at the King Edward VII Hospital.
New mum Fiona Shaw (24) vowed to give up her diet of burgers to give her baby the best, healthiest start, but she couldn't eat at all.
She vomited so badly that by 28 weeks pregnant she'd dropped from 11 stone to just eight. From being a size 14, she'd become an eight.
A scan showed that her baby was suffering too; when Fiona's baby was delivered by an emergency caesarean she weighed just 2lb 5oz. Fortunately, the baby lived.
Such severe hyperemesis is, fortunately, rare. In his 20 years of practice at the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, the former Master Dr Peter Boylan has seen just one or two cases.
"That's in a hospital where 8,000 babies are born a year," he stresses.
"I do, very occasionally, meet a woman who is absolutely floored by pregnancy; who vomits the entire way through, and then, as soon as she has her baby is back to herself again. That, though, is rare.
"It's more common for women to suffer from hyperemesis in early pregnancy. If she can keep nothing down, we admit her for rehydration. We'll give her a drip of saline with dextrose, and maybe vitamins. Usually she will feel better within 24 hours and be ready to go home again.
"We don't know the cause of hyperemesis," he says. "Though we think it has something to do with the increase of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the body. This seems to have an effect on some women.
"Hyperemesis is not a big problem from the obstetrical point of view. Most of the time, it clears spontaneously around 10 to 12 weeks. The main risk is dehydration to the mother. There is, normally, no risk to the baby."
When Katrina Wardlaw was pregnant with Amy, now three, she felt increasingly nauseous. "It came on gradually," she says. "It started with extreme hunger. I'd stop on the way to work for poached eggs. I really needed to eat. Then, at around eight weeks pregnant, suddenly I wasn't really able to eat at all.
"I'd eat dry biscuits, but I'd retch all the time. I felt weak and had to lie down a lot. I was worried that I wasn't eating the right food for the baby so I went to see my GP. She said: 'You will be the one to suffer. The baby takes everything from you.' She said that the main thing was to keep taking fluid."
The nausea went on for four or five months. Then it lifted. Katrina didn't worry too much about the sickness returning in another pregnancy.
"I assumed it would not be as bad," she says.
But when she was pregnant with Alexander -- now one-and-a-half -- she suffered a more extreme form of the condition.
"I knew I was pregnant because, at once, I became sensitive to smell," she says. "When my husband, Colin, got into the car, I'd know at once if he'd had garlic or spices at lunchtime. To me, it smelt horrific.
"Soon I was feeling sick from the moment I woke up until I went to bed at night. I was retching and vomiting, but nothing relieved the nausea.
"I'm a lawyer, and I was working three days a week. I worked two days from home, but it was a terrible struggle. I took three weeks off because I was so sick.
"At my worst, I could not keep anything down. I could not drink water and I felt so ill and weak. All I could do was lie in bed with a basin beside me. If I took a sip of water, it would come straight back up.
"I thought, at that stage, I would have to go to hospital. But after a week or so, I kept the water down. I'd still retch though; and I was still throwing up any food.
"Amy was just 22 months old when Alexander was born and she was a demanding toddler. I'd struggle down to the sofa and lie there with her; or lie on the floor.
"It went on for five months; I'd lost weight but after five months I made up for it. I was able to eat, and had just mild nausea until the end of the pregnancy.
"I was exhausted at that stage. I gradually got better, but I never fully regained my energy. I never had that glow of pregnancy. I was so tired when the babies were born; and then you're into that pattern of broken nights.
"I don't plan to have any more children. And the sickness would be a major reason for that.
"I got the feeling, sometimes, that people did not take my sickness seriously. I felt that people with 'normal' morning sickness felt that I was making more of a deal of it than I should. And that was annoying."
Nora Leahy has five children. There's Robbie, 22, Adam, 15, Liam, 9, Darragh, four, and Katie, who is almost two. Nora has had appalling morning sickness with each child.
"It starts slowly," she says. "I feel a little nauseous, then it gradually gets worse. By the end I can keep nothing down; not even a sip of water. It's really severe, then around 12 weeks it just stops," she says.
"I was 19 when I was first pregnant. My doctor gave me some medication. I think it has now been withdrawn from the market. It was bad when I had Adam, too. I just hit the bed, I was so weak. I couldn't do anything.
"It was bad the next time too; I was vomiting all the time, but it always tapered at 12 weeks. When I was thinking of having my fourth, though, I was worried about the sickness. I went to see a nutritionist for advice.
"She felt my body might be lacking some nutrients. She put me on a course of vitamins for a few months. It didn't stop the sickness, but I wasn't as run down afterwards.
"Hyperemesis is debilitating," she says. "Your body is telling you to eat; you are trying to force something down, but it only stays for a moment. The vomiting becomes more and more violent. Your stomach is so sore, and there is no relief from the nausea. You become really, really weak.
"The sickness is so extreme that you wonder how the baby can survive. I'm normally eight stone; I went down to six-and-a-half. I looked anorexic.
"But, after the three months, I ate normally. My babies were big. They were all more than 9lb and Darragh was a whopping 11lb 4oz."
Nora hates hospitals. Since Robbie's hospital birth, all the other babies were born at home. But when she was pregnant with Katie, she became so weak that she had to go in.
"I'd gone to bed earlier," she says. "My husband took time off work and a friend came and helped with the children. I really tried to eat, but I couldn't. I got so weak I was scared I'd go into a coma. So we called an ambulance and I went to hospital.
"They put me on a drip straight away. I stayed on it for four to five days; then a couple of days later I came home. The vomiting started again. I tried to eat toast and food with no smell. And I knew I was near the time that the sickness would lift."
There were several other women in hospital on drips with hyperemesis, and Norah wishes there was more research done on it.
"It is so much worse than ordinary morning sickness. Researchers now believe that Charlotte Bronte died from it. But most people don't understand the severity. They say: 'Morning sickness? Oh, I had that.'"