Kate Middleton’s happy news that she is expecting a baby with Prince William seems to have been prompted by some less happy news—the Duchess of Cambridge is being hospitalized for a severe form of morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum. Though rare, the debilitating condition, described by one of our bloggers as “the morning sickness from hell,” involves extreme and persistent nausea and vomiting.
In pregnancy, as in life, Kate is in rarified company. Only one to two percent of pregnant women suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, which can lead to dangerous weight loss, severe dehydration, and kidney and liver damage. Although the condition, which may be hereditary, is treatable, it can become life threatening and can even require pregnancy termination.
Those cases are few and far between, but it’s the rare woman who escapes pregnancy without some brush with nausea.
“Morning sickness affects about 80 percent of women in the first trimester,” says Chad Klauser, MD, assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan.
Here are Dr. Klauser’s tips for treating routine morning sickness:
- Find your food triggers Carbohydrates are often easier to tolerate than other foods. “Cheerios and toast are good first line foods to try,” he says.
- Avoid warm foods These can worsen nausea. Instead opt for cold picks or hot beverages, such as tea
- Stay away from fatty foods
- Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day
- Keep hydrated Try Popsicles, Pedialyte, or any fluids you can get down
- Try an over-the-counter treatment These include vitamin B6 and Unisom, which can also be helpful, says Dr. Klauser. “Both have a long history of safety in pregnancy and improve morning sickness in approximately 80% of cases.” If those don’t work, there are prescription medications that are used safely in pregnancy to alleviate nausea.
Any woman who notices she is losing weight in pregnancy or is unable to tolerate foods or fluids for more than 24 hours should contact her doctor, says Dr. Klauser. Left untreated, hyperemesis not only leads to dangerous dehydration, but can also result in social isolation and depression. And, in cases like Kate’s, require hospitalization and treatment with IV fluids and medications. A recent review article in the journal Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that in addition to medications, stress relief and alternative treatments such as acupuncture and hypnosis were effective in relieving the nausea and vomiting associated with it.
Beyond the happy news that she’s expecting, Kate’s condition could actually be a sign that her baby is healthy. “Hyperemesis is thought to be somewhat protective,” says Dr. Klauser. “There’s a statistically decreased risk of fetal malformations in people who have severe vomiting or hyperemesis in pregnancy.” Which means this not-so-minor bump in their royal fairytale may portend a happy ending for the Prince and Duchess.