Kate’s morning sickness: how serious and does it mean twins?

Dec 4, 2012

Hyperemesis gravidarum was once a killer but today it can be treated with fluids and medication

THERE is concern over the revelation that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, is suffering severe morning sickness in the early weeks of her pregnancy – severe enough to require several days in hospital.

The Duchess is being treated at Edward VII Hospital in London for hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a condition that causes extreme nausea and vomiting and can lead to serious dehydration.

How common is it?
The media are finding it hard to agree on this. The Daily Mail says it affects one in 50 pregnancies, but Sky News believes it is much rarer and only about one in 300 pregnant women are affected. The BBC puts the figure at one in 200.

Charlotte Bronte is thought to have died of the illness in 1855, says The Guardian, but it is quick to add: "Nowadays doctors say it is a routine complication of pregnancy and easy to treat."

The Duchess is likely to be on a drip and taking anti-sickness medication, according to reports. "The condition can lead to severe dehydration and puts both mother and baby at risk of being deprived of essential nutrients," explains the Mail.

Dr Peter Bowen-Simpkins, medical director at London Women's Clinic, told the BBC: "People who get it get intractable vomiting and may lose as much as 10 per cent of their body weight and become very dehydrated.

"When this occurs the simple treatment is to get fluids into them - and usually they feel considerably better."

One HG sufferer told Sky News that she was sick 35 times a day until the 35th week of her pregnancy. She was regularly put on a drip and had to take steroids.

According to the BBC, HG is unlikely to cause the baby any harm unless it causes weight loss in the mother. Then "there is an increased risk that your baby may be born with a low birth weight".

The Duchess’s complaint also raises the possibility of royal twins, according to The Daily Telegraph. "Hyperemesis gravidarum [is] a condition that is more often experienced by women expecting twins," says the paper. "Mothers-to-be who suffer from the condition are three times more likely to have a multiple birth than other women."

Dr Bowen-Simpkins said the couple "would know by now whether there were twins there or not".

If it had not been for the morning sickness, the public would not have learned so early about the Duchess’s condition. The royal couple apparently decided to let the news out because, as the Telegraph puts it, they realised that in the age of Twitter it would be impossible to keep it secret.

As a result, the Duchess's illness "prompted a scramble" to tell members of the Royal family about the pregnancy before news of her arrival at Edward VII Hospital leaked out.

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Makes a change from the inward-looking clap trap from the BBC, Leveson, Jimmy Savile, etc - good luck to Kate and William - let us hope that the media do not intrude into these very private aspects of their lives - slim chance, methinks!