Pregnant Kate Middleton is suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, but what is it?

After the recent announcement of Kate Middleton’s third pregnancy, Dr Penelope Law, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Teresa Walsh, Midwife Educator at The Portland Hospital explain everything you need to know about Hyperemesis Gravidarum

What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

Whilst ‘morning sickness’ or ‘all day‘ sickness can affect many women (70%) in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy – true ‘Hyperemesis Gravidarum’ is much less common. This is when you have vomited so much that your kidney function and electrolytes are disturbed”, explains Dr Law

What can I do?

Teresa explains what you should do if you are worried.

Your midwife or GP will be able to assess and refer you. It is important that you seek medical help if you are not passing urine for 8 hours or unable to keep food or fluid for 24 hours.

“There seems to be no gold standard of treatment for pregnancy induced nausea, so it is worth considering trying different options.”

  • Sea bands

Dr Law advises “With the first feelings of nausea you could start to wear Sea-bands. These go on both wrists, covering a pressure point just above your palm which really improves the awful waves of sickness. For best effect they should stay on even in the shower until about 16 weeks when the majority of women will feel much better.”

  • Food and Drink

Teresa says “Food choices will be difficult, and it may be helpful to speak with a dietitian.

“Maintaining good hydration is essential. Keep sipping water and even use frozen ice lolly as a way of keeping your fluid intake up.”

Dr Law explains “The combination of the pregnancy hormone and the acid in your stomach is what we think makes you feel like vomiting – so the sickness often improves if you can take just a sip of fluid or a teaspoon of food each hour. Ginger tablets can also have an anti-sickness effect.”

“Plainer starchy foods will be less likely to worsen the nausea than spicy or acidic ones. A good tip is to put something by the side of your bed before you go to sleep, so you can nibble on it before you even lift your head up.”

“Don’t worry if you can only face a limited range of foods – your baby will still have all the nutrients it needs to grow.”

  • Rest

“Rest is universally the one thing that makes a difference”, Teresa adds. “As many women are working it can be challenging, however early nights and lazy weekends are the best way forward.”

Will it harm my baby?

Dr Law reassures women who worry that their baby may be affected if they continue to vomit. “Many women worry that their baby will be affected. This is not usually the case, but rarely women do need to have fluids given intravenously just to help them feel less dehydrated. This is now mainly done in most hospitals during the day – allowing you to sleep at home.

“In the very rare situation that this does not improve your vomiting, you may be prescribed anti- sickness medication and even steroids to reduce your symptoms. For a very small number of women the vomiting can continue until the last trimester and even until delivery.

“For most women once their baby is born – their memories of nausea and vomiting are fading – the mind has a very clever way of persuading us that actually things were not that bad and even suggesting that we might even do it all again!”

The Countess of Bradford Dr Penelope Law is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital; Teresa Walsh is a Midwife Educator at The Portland Hospital. The Portland Hospital is part of HCA UK.