Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Kate Middleton’s Severe Morning Sickness

As we wish Kate Middleton, aka the Duchess of Cambridge, of belated Happy Birthday (she turned 31 yesterday, January 9), we can’t help but notice that she hasn’t been feeling well lately.

As you’ve no doubt heard, William and Kate are expecting a baby. You’ve also surely heard that Kate was forced to announce the coming bundle of joy sooner than she wished, due to an unexpected hospitalization due to hyperemesis gravidarum, described by the palace as “very acute morning sickness, which requires supplementary hydration and nutrients. ”

What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

So what exactly is hyperemesis gravidarum?

Medline Plus tells us that, while approximately 90% women have some nausea during the first three months of pregnancy due to rapidly rising blood hormone levels of HCG,  hyperemesis gravidarum is extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting that may lead to dehydration. It affects 1-2% of pregnant women, so apparently the Duchess of Cambridge just got “lucky.”

Since Kate’s diagnosis, other women who have suffered this rare yet very real pregnancy complication have come forward to share some pretty harrowing tales. Children’s novelist Kristen Kemp was expecting twins and remembers,“I wanted to kill myself. My hyperemesis put my whole family — and me — through hell. It’s a depressing and crazy-making illness.”

Kemp felt even worse when others, even medical professionals, seemed to treat her condition like it was all in her head. “The nurses didn’t take me seriously,” she said, describing the scene when she arrived at the emergency room. “They said, ‘You just need to relax, drink some water, take some ginger.’ But this isn’t morning sickness, it’s a disease. It doesn’t feel like morning sickness, it feels like you’re gonna die.”

And indeed, I’ve seen various comments online intimating that Kate is a bit spoiled for being hospitalized. “Only a royal would go to the hospital for morning sickness,” noticed another HG sufferer, Suzanne Lambert. Lambert describes her harrowing pregnancy, in which she lost 20 pounds in the first few months, vomited up to 15 times daily, developed gray skin, and pale, peeling lips. Thankfully, Lambert began to feel better halfway through the pregnancy, but she never felt well and never had an appetite. The day she gave birth to her 6-pound daughter, she weighed exactly one pound more than her pre-pregnancy weight. Lambert eventually had another child, a son. Unfortunately, her second pregnancy was no easier. Her daughter’s first sentence was, “Mommy’s sick.”

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Kate Middleton’s Severe Morning Sickness

Reporter Stephanie Nolen can relate as well, describing her own bout with the HG monster: “’Severe morning sickness,’ dear reader, does not do it justice. For the first months of my pregnancies, the world pitched and roiled and heaved. I could tolerate no food, or the smell of food. I don’t mean that I was a little pukey. I mean that I spent 50 days curled up motionless in the dark under a blanket, unable to bear rolling over at even a glacial pace. I lost five kilograms in a couple of weeks. I could not speak, I could not open my eyes, and when a sympathetic friend crept in to see me, the undulating pattern of her black-and-white striped pants triggered a round of heaving.”

Nolen details the sudden, wonderful end of the affliction. “When my first child was born and the midwife placed him in my arms, I felt not the rush of joy some of my friends had described, or the rush of alarm others had, but only the realization that it was gone – it was gone! In an instant! The vomiting feeling – gone! It was like being given back my soul, like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when everything turns to color.”

Her advice to Kate? “You’re not being melodramatic, and it ends. And it will seem worth it, eventually – but for the next while, this is going to seem like the worst, most terrible idea you ever had. Just lie still, and let yourself cry.”

I can only imagine how much worse all this must be for Kate, who not only must endure, but must do it in the public eye, with her every move and fashion choice scrutinized. Indeed, the London Daily Mail newspaper enthused: With the arrival of the Royal Bump, 2013 promises to be a year in which Prince William’s wife will continue to delight and surprise us with a brand new assortment of fashion choices. I wish I could spare her the spotlight!

William recently commented that he was unsure why it was called “morning sickness” :”It’s all day and all night sickness,” he said. “She feels like it is going to go on forever.” Let’s pray for improving health for her.


Would your child enjoy learning more about Kate? Check out my biography of her, perfect to read aloud to kids of any age, or for kids 10-14 to read on their own. Photos and info about the Duchess bring her to life!

3 thoughts on “Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Kate Middleton’s Severe Morning Sickness

  1. It does go on 24 hours/day for some women. A friend of mine was hospitalized a couple of times during her experience with it.

  2. Sarah Lee shared with us that her mother had it when she was pregnant. I had never heard of this before Kate’s experience with same.

  3. What an ordeal to go through not once but now twice for Kate! Hope that she feels better very soon.

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