Our lady of hyperemesis gravidarum

AFP/GETTY IMAGES Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, attends the UK Premiere of the film ‘African Cats’ in London on April 25, … Continued


Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, attends the UK Premiere of the film ‘African Cats’ in London on April 25, 2012.

As the world now knows, the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with her first child and is hospitalized due to severe morning sickness. Kate Middleton’s “rare” condition’s medical name is hyperemesis gravidarum, which is actually Latin for “I’m barfing my brains out.”

Throwing up has never been so glamorous.

On behalf of past and current hyperemesis gravidarum sufferers everywhere, we’d like to say thank you to the duchess for making public our secret suffering. Since morning sickness typically afflicts women during the beginning of their pregnancies at a time when they’re keeping their news quiet, many suffer in silence. Thanks to the British tabloids, morning sickness is having its day.

By now you must be wondering: What is it like to throw up for weeks on end?

View Photo Gallery: The royal couple’s future heir to join the legion of famous royals from various nations.

A few days after I found out I was pregnant, I bolted into the grocery store on a mission to stock up on healthy, free range, pesticide free, fair trade, organic food for me and my growing little one. I spent $250 on organic kale, quinoa salad and heirloom tomatoes. Of course, the next morning my hypermesis kicked into high gear and I watched as the groceries rotted inside our fridge and I tried to subsist on a diet of Preggie Pops and air.

For me, having hypermesis meant I literally couldn’t get out of bed. I tried working from my laptop but the mere act of scrolling made my stomach churn. Natural remedies –crackers, ginger ale, lemons –did nothing. I mostly slept, and carried a trash can wherever I went. All my husband wanted was an omelet, but the thought of eggs made me want to kill him. He was under strict orders to keep the lights off in our apartment and to only eat in secret. I spent the winter on the couch in the fetal position.

I have often told people that I knew my condition was bad when a helicopter flew over my home and instead of listening to its rumble to make sure it passed safely overhead, I thought to myself, “Well, at least if it crashes into my apartment I won’t have any more morning sickness.” Death would have been an improvement.

My mom was violently ill with me. Her mother, who was then working as a secretary in Manhattan, had to quit her job over her severe morning sickness. Did the fact that millions of women have coped with non-stop vomiting inspire me? In a word: No.

Being the Internet addicted Catholic that I am, I desperately googled “Catholic prayers for morning sickness.” Certainly in a church as devoted to the Virgin Mary and the spiritual meaning of her pregnancy, I was sure there would be some resource online. I found nothing. And alas, the patron saint of pregnant women is a man. I found Catholic prayers for the sick and dying, and that seemed close enough. (A new book is a good start.)

Many doctors respond to the news that a woman is violently ill with a “Congratulations!” as the flood of hormones that causes morning sickness is often a sign of a healthy pregnancy. For a while, my doctor seemed to think that the amount of misery I was in was normal. But when I started losing weight and became unable to work, he finally prescribed me Zofran, an anti-nausea medication. Although I still was sick to my stomach and dealt with some unpleasant side effects, I was able to keep small amounts of food down and return to work. Thank God for Zofran.

Severe morning sickness was, by far, the hardest part of having a baby for me. Labor and delivery seemed quick and fun by comparison. And I like to think I worked off a few years in purgatory.

But would I trade my little miracle, now giddily bouncing beside me, to be freed from those months of suffering?

Not for the queen of England.

Related from On Faith:

*Author: Surviving Kate Middleton’s ’s pregnancy disease was a test of faith

Elizabeth Tenety
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  • Ruth H Rabin

    i had never heard of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, until the fall of 1989 when my daughter was pregant with her first son at the age of 27. She always had a tendency to vomit easily, but nothing prepared us for this! She was hospitalized for a good part of her pregnancy, beginning at about 8-10 weeks at New York’s Beth Israel Hospital. They gave her all the treatments Kate is now receiving (the treatments are still the same) but nothing helped. She was constantly in and out of the hospital. Finally, she went into labor at 35 weeks and four days. She delivered a perfectly healthy baby boy who weighed 4lbs,15 oz. In the early winter of 1993 she became pregnant again. This time the hyperemesis gravidarum was so severe that spent most of the time, including the last three months in New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital. She was fed intravenously through a catheter in her chest (total parental nutrition). This time at 34 weeks, 4days, she gave birth to her second son. He weighed 4lbs,9 1/2 oz. Again, he was perfectly healthy inspite of the prematurity and the hyperemesis. Today, both boys are strong and healthy, as they always have been. The are both very intelligent, well adjusted, and happy! My daughter never attempted a third pregnancy!! Don’t worry about Kate! She’ll get Royal Treatment! I am glad to see this condition becoming public, even with my daughter’s first pregnancy, one of the OBs in the hospital told her it was psychological,and that she was trying to vomit up the baby!! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to write about this! Ruth Rabin RuthHRabin@verizon.net

  • RAS1954

    If you’re going to write an entire article about it, please learn how to spell it!

  • peterroach

    THis is an important moment of education for all of us, especially men.
    However, I do wonder if some other disease process is at work when such a condition is so exceptionally severe.

  • peterroach

    Was your daughter ever tested for Mycoplasma bacteria ?

  • CrimsonWife

    I thought St. Anne (the Virgin Mary’s mom and therefore Jesus’s grandma) was the patron saint of pregnant women?

    I had awful morning (noon, and night) sickness for the entire 9 mos. with my 2nd pregnancy but somehow managed to keep enough down to avoid hospitalization. As a result, my OB refused to prescribe Zofran or any other treatment. Didn’t matter than I was constantly vomiting and lost 10 lbs. during my 1st trimester, I wasn’t sick enough according to my dr. for anything more than Sea-Bands and sipping on ginger ale.

  • Twiddle Knott

    I, too, suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, as did my mother who had 12 children, and 2 of my sisters. It is obviously inherited, although my daughter did not have it with her 3 pregnancies.Thank Goodness, she was scared to death.Mine started at 4 weeks into my pregnancies and lasted the entire remaining 8 months. Even contined about 3 days after the 2 babies were born,with me thinking it was going to be a permanent affliction.I vomited day & night and was so weak I was hospitalized about 4 times with each baby, after losing as much as 16 lbs.EAch time I went to the hospital, after taking fluids, I felt like a million dollars and then about 2 or 3 hours after I got home, it started again.But, on a positive note, the babies were fine and I did NOT have twins. The only thing that helped at all were suppositores for the vomiting. They made me so sleepy that it was a relief to some extent. Without the help of a the most caring & wonderful neighbor in the world, I don’t think I could have survived.My OB told my husband it was “all in my head!!!” I wish it had been, I would have been much better off.As if anyone ENJOYS being deathly ill. Hopefully Kate will get over the sickness soon and it won’t be 8 months long like mine because it is MISERABLE…..

  • question1

    My sympathies to you (and my sister) and every other woman who had/has this terrible condition. I’d never heard of it until my niece was on the way.

    My own morning sickness doesn’t bear the title: 4 days of queasiness w/2 “episodes”. This was immediately followed by months of consuming meatball & grilled cheese sandwiches with glee.

    By the way, St. Anne is the patron saint of women in labor, mothers & grandmothers. I’m sure St. Gerard was a swell fella, but I’ll stick with St. Anne.

  • KarenLS

    I feel lucky after reading about all this. My first pregnancy I began vomiting about week four and continued until the last month. In a training course at the beginning the instructors called breaks when I was noticeably green. Thank goodness my OB put me on bendectin which reduced the number of episodes to once or twice a day rather than every hour. I cannot even conceptualize non-stop vomiting as women have been describing. I would have wanted the helo to crash into me as well. Bad enough as it was.
    They took bendectin off the market the next year due to lawsuits for birth defects. I was terrified as to what would happen with a second pregnancy…..luckily I barely had any “morning” sickness with number two.
    Then number three was in the middle. Makes me wonder why we women go through this over and over again. I stopped at the third as the trend was going in the very wrong direction. I feel for the Duchess as she has to have the heir and a spare.

  • RafaelSuarez1

    One good reason not to medicate during pregnancy might be the thalidomide horrors memories. (taken from Wikipedia, about the history of medicine and thalidomide) :
    “. It was also found to be an effective antiemetic that had an inhibitory effect on morning sickness, so thousands of pregnant women took the drug to relieve their symptoms. At the time of the drug’s development, scientists did not believe any drug taken by a pregnant woman could pass across the placental barrier and harm the developing fetus.[8]”

  • karine

    my grandmother had such a bad case of morning sickness she lost a baby. What she did for the next is follow an old doctor advice who asked my grandfather to make her a blood transfusion of his own blood every few weeks. It worked. A new theory is that morning sickness is rejecting the baby adn as too foreign. Taking in the husbands blood may have helped for this reason.

  • Bartolo1

    As I recall, a more famous Englishwoman died of this condition: Charlotte Bronte.