When pregnancy is a royal pain

Morning sickness isn’t uncommon. In fact, since 70 to 80 percent of women have at least some mild nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, there are really only a very lucky few who don’t get it. Most of the time munching a few crackers before getting out of bed in the morning, or eating a number of small meals through the day, is all it takes to get through.

Yes, I know: it doesn’t completely alleviate the symptoms. I did say “get through.” If I made the rules, things would be different, believe me.

Morning sickness stinks, yes, but for most women, the symptoms vanish right around week 12, and the mom-to-be enjoys a relatively blissful and nausea-free second trimester.

So, what the heck is going on with Kate Middleton?

Severe nausea can be attributed to a rapid rise or spike in hormone levels and in some cases can indicate multiples (twins or more!). You can bet that royal watchers and paparazzi everywhere are holding their breath waiting to hear if this is the case. Kate’s hospitalization has been getting no shortage of press.

The condition that sent Kate to the hospital is hyperemesis gravidarum. It’s a rare pregnancy condition that is kind of like particularly intense morning sickness. Here’s a look at how the two compare.

Regular morning sickness:

  • Some vomiting can accompany the nausea
  • Severe dehydration is not a typical result
  • Keeping food down isn’t a problem, and food can actually help sometimes
  • Symptoms usually appear between 4-6 weeks of pregnancy and peak at 9-13 weeks
  • Relief for most women comes between 14-20 weeks
  • About 20 percent of women have issues throughout their entire pregnancy

Hyperemesis:

  • Nausea is accompanied by severe vomiting—more than three or four times a day
  • Vomiting causes severe dehydration
  • Vomiting does not let allow the mother to keep any food down
  • Symptoms can appear in the first 6 to 12 weeks
  • Nausea does not subside—women can have symptoms through the entire pregnancy

Who gets it, and what to do

Being a first-time mother might be part of Kate’s problem. That is, first-timers are more likely to experience hyperemesis gravidarum, as are women who are overweight, carrying multiples, or have trophoblastic disease, which includes abnormal cell growth in the uterus.

And the unfortunate news for Kate is that dealing with hyperemesis once means you’re more likely to experience it in subsequent pregnancies. She has, of course, done the best thing for herself and her baby, which is to seek treatment so that she is assured of staying hydrated and nourished during this important time. Another avenue for coping is to identify the things that cause nausea so that you can avoid them. Medications also are available to help quell the nausea and prevent vomiting.

As unpleasant as morning sickness can be, it usually is just that and not the more serious hyperemesis gravidarum. Your chances of developing that condition aren’t as low as they are of, say, marrying into the royal family, but rest assured (on a mattress without a pea under it) that the condition is rare.

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