Kate Middleton's Awful Pregnancy Condition​ Is One I Know All Too Well

Kate Middleton

I suppose it's what most little girls dream about: one day finding themselves in the same boat as a princess. Only, for Kate Middleton's sake, I wish her current condition wasn't one she shared with a mere commoner. Word has it the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with baby number two, and she's been stuck in a hospital suffering from a severe morning sickness known in the medical community as hyperemesis gravidarum.

Been there. Done that. Have the torn up esophagus and acid reflux medication prescription to show for it ... nine full years after my daughter's birth.


In fact, nine years after giving birth, I'm still not as brave as the Duchess. I won't be having another child. The reasons are myriad, but the fear of going through another pregnancy like my first is high on the "reasons to be one and done" list.

Like Middleton, I too ended up in the hospital while I was pregnant.


Each time, I had to have a needle shoved into my veins and have fluids pumped into me via an IV to rehydrate my pregnant body after hours of persistent and uncontrollable throwing up. What has tied me -- and thousands of other mothers -- to royalty is not your garden variety morning sickness.

So, what is hyperemesis gravidarum?

Think of the worst hangover you've ever had. Take away all the alcohol (I was pregnant after all) and double the throwing up. Now add in fear coursing through your veins, fear that your body is rejecting the life you've been so excited to have growing inside you.

That was the week I found out I had an extreme form of morning sickness that affects around 2 percent of pregnancies.

It started on a weekend. I'd just found out I was pregnant the week before, and we'd yet to tell anyone because it was so early on in the first trimester. I was lying on the couch, sleeping off the exhaustion of early pregnancy, and I woke up feeling an overwhelming urge to vomit.

At first, I was excited.

OK, OK, disgusted and excited. Even as a bulimic teenager, I never enjoyed vomiting, but this was different. This was the classic sign that life was indeed forming in my uterus. This was magic!

But then I threw up again. And again. And again. And again.

As the night went on, I gave up on making it to the bathroom and simply stayed on the couch and grabbed for the garbage can. I managed to eat something small for dinner (forgive me, but nine years later I haven't a clue what it was), but it promptly came back up. It was a long, sleepless night.

By morning there was nothing left in my body, and yet when my husband offered me breakfast, the thought made me nauseated. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't produce tears. I was that dehydrated.

It was so early on that I'd yet to visit the doctor's office for a confirmation of my pregnancy (my dotor's office will not let you come in until your second trimester, which I've since learned is fairly common), and I'd used various doctors in the rotation for my annual but had no one particular practitioner with whom I'd developed a relationship. It was just as well. I got the guy on call who told me to hang up the phone and go directly to the emergency room.

More From The Stir: Extreme Morning Sickness in Pregnancy: Why It Happens & How It's Treated

Let me tell you something about emergency room nurses. They are rock stars at finding veins and starting IVs. They're used to doing it in high stress situations and on people who are extremely sick.

The nurse couldn't find a vein in either of my arms because of my dehydration. She had to call someone to help her, and they finally got a needle into my hand. 

The bags hung on my IV were a mix of fluids and a medicine known as an anti-emetic, meant to stop the roller coaster in my stomach. My husband and I would spend most of Sunday night in that ER as relief slowly dripped into my veins.

I was sent home that night with orders to follow up with my OB/GYN's office. By the time the office opened Monday morning, I'd already thrown up several times, including the few crackers I'd managed to nibble on for breakfast.

When I arrived at the OB/GYNs office (after several stops along the roadside to ... well, you know), they did a few tests (I remember peeing in a cup but not much else) and gave me a diagnosis: hyperemesis gravidarum.

And then they told me I needed to go back to the emergency room. I was already dehydrated and in desperate need of IV fluids. So I was put in a wheelchair and wheeled downstairs to once again have nurses stick needles in my arms to try to find a vein and once gain spend hours with fluids being pumped into my body

I was also given a prescription for another anti-emetic, this time one I could take on my own, and an order to tell work I would be staying home for several days as I would need to rest.

I was about six weeks pregnant. I had no intention of telling my boss I was pregnant at this point, but I had no choice. I was going to have to give a good reason for staying home for five straight days.

I got through the call and returned to my couch where I lay unable to move as this time the roller coaster swooped up and down and around in my head. After a day of the terrible headaches -- which were making me nauseous (oh, the irony!) -- I called the OB/GYN's office and reported I wasn't feeling any better.

This time they blamed the headaches on -- wait for it -- the anti-nausea medication! I was ordered to stop immediately and prescribed a second drug, one that would also prove to be in-effective. 

Finally, they gave me a medicine created to help chemotherapy patients fight nausea. The little white pill and I were to become fast friends.

For nearly seven months, I took that medicine daily, in order to stand up straight, to go to work every day, to keep down enough food for my daughter to flourish in my body.

I still struggled with nausea that made taking my giant horse pill prenatal vitamins next to impossible. I still tended to do best when eating greasy (read not exactly healthy) foods, the type that you eat when you have an actual hangover (but I repeat, no alcohol was consumed during the gestating of this baby!). I had days when I could barely stand up from my bed because I'd yet to have my pill and my stomach was doing flip flops. My boss became used to me running out of the room mid-conversation to hit the bathroom.

Between the throwing up from the HG and the wicked nature of the heartburn I suffered in the latter months of my pregnancy, I ended up with an acid reflux diagnosis shortly after delivery. My primary care physician assured me that it was probably temporary and I'd only have to take medicine for a few months to heal my esophagus. Did I mention that was nine years ago? I'm still on the medicine.

And yet, I know mine is not the worst run-in with HG that a mom has had.

HG is considered the "extreme" end of morning sickness, but even within the diagnosis there's a range of bad to worse. Some mothers-to-be end up in the hospital for days on end. Some get not just IV fluids for dehydration but get all of their food that way for a period of time too.

Unfortunately, it's so closely tied to the condition that most of us know about -- "regular" morning sickness, if you will -- that it's often pooh poohed by a society used to women simply munching on some Saltines, throwing on some Sea Bands, and getting back to work. It can't be that bad, they say. Just suck it up, they say.

But the more talk there is in the media about the royal mummy's tummy trouble, the better it is for all moms with HG.

If Kate Middleton, with all her money and all the advantages of living a fairy tale existence, can't just "suck it up" and muddle through, perhaps the rest of the world will get the picture that there's morning sickness and then there's this outlier, a condition which requires a lot more than just pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. We aren't trying to milk a system or get extra sympathy for our pregnancy.

We're too busy fighting to get up off the couch.

Did you have HG? What was your experience like?


Image via Oli Scarff/Staff/GettyImages

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