News of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge expecting their third child popped up on my phone late last night. My first thought? Kate Middleton must be mad.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is not to be taken lightly. It is an absolutely crippling pregnancy sickness which renders sufferers incapable of holding down a glass of water. In many cases, the only way to deal with it is to be admitted to hospital and have fluids administered via a drip.
My own experience of chronic “morning sickness” was tough. In my first pregnancy, I vomited at least six times a day for the first 25 weeks.
I carried “sick bags” with me wherever I went. At work it was impossible to hide my malaise; I had to dash out of meetings to run to the bathroom, and carefully plan routes around the office that avoided food smells coming from the kitchen.
Going to work through my “morning sickness” was so difficult that when my husband and I planned a close age gap between our children I decided to resign. Being at home with a toddler brought its own set of difficulties, but at least I could feel terrible in the privacy of my own home.
But even the chronic “morning sickness” I experienced is a walk in the park compared to Hyperemesis Gravidarum.
After suffering from it once, some women decide to stop at one child and not put themselves through the misery again. A few years ago I interviewed Jade* about her experience. She told me that after vomiting all day, every day, through her pregnancy there was absolutely no way she would do it again. “I get chills just thinking about it,” she told me.
For some women, Hyperemesis Gravidarum is so bad that they make the heart-wrenching decision to terminate their pregnancy.
A 2015 survey in the UK found that as many as 1000 women a year choose to have an abortion in order to escape the dire misery of pregnancy sickness. In an anonymous op-ed for The Guardian, one British woman explained how a termination felt like her only option.
“When you tell people about it they make it clear they think you are just being overdramatic. GPs need to stop making comments like ‘it will pass’ or, even worse, ‘it’s the sign of a healthy pregnancy’,” she wrote.
“Why is it OK for women to be pushed into carrying on regardless, just because they are pregnant? Would GPs be so relaxed about pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes? No.”
By going public with her Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Kate Middleton has raised much needed awareness of the condition. But sadly, it is something some doctors still trivialise.
Even the term “morning sickness” makes light of it – believe me, it’s not limited to the mornings.
Of course, unlike other mothers who are balancing pregnancy with parenting younger children, Kate has a team of help at her disposal. She probably won’t find herself vomiting into the toilet with a jubilant toddler clinging to her back.
The fact that Kate is putting herself through a third pregnancy with Hyperemesis Gravidarum shows that she has what it takes to survive this debilitating condition – proper medical support (and no doubt, some child care help as well).
Either that, or my first thoughts are correct – she is absolutely mad.