Hyperemesis Gravidarum is NOT the Same as Morning Sickness

I'm sure you've all seen the news. The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, has been admitted to hospital with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). I'm also sure that if you've never heard of this, the fact that the media are calling it 'acute morning sickness' isn't really helping.

First of all, 'morning sickness' is a daft term even for mild nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP). Very few women only ever feel a bit queasy in the mornings. Let's get rid of this outdated term, shall we, and call it NVP.

Next, let's look at some facts. Around 80 per cent of all pregnant women suffer from NVP. Around 30 per cent of women suffer badly enough to miss work at some point during their pregnancy. And around 35 per cent of women have symptoms that are of clinical significance. So while the majority of women have 'mild' symptoms, NVP still affects a lot of women beyond the 'queasy once in a while' that is so often portrayed in the media.

Now let's look at HG. This affects a far smaller number of women. Statistics vary depending on the research paper studied, but most come in at between 1 per cent and 2 per cent of pregnant women suffering from it. For these women, the nausea and/or vomiting is so severe that they are unable to eat, drink or function normally. Dehydration, weight-loss, and electrolyte imbalances are common.

This is why treatment is essential: you may have heard that the baby will be fine, it will take what it needs from the mother, but when the mother cannot provide enough for herself her body will suffer.

And that's not even mentioning the emotional and psychological effects of suffering from severe nausea and/or vomiting for weeks and months on end, effects that can continue long after the baby has been born. Emotional and mental health support is as important for a woman with HG as medical treatment, not because it is 'all in her head' as some people love to spurt out ignorantly, but because of the isolation, fear and sheer hell that the condition puts you through.


Antenatal Depression, Postnatal Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are common in women who have suffered HG, and should not be forgotten.

The Duchess of Cambridge is lucky (if any woman with HG can be considered 'lucky') in that she has received treatment quickly. Many women with HG are less fortunate, having to battle with their GP, midwife and obstetrician  to get the treatment they need. Yet research clearly shows the importance of proper treatment and management of the condition.

But most importantly we need to stop judging each other. So many women I know who have suffered with HG have also had to face criticism and hateful comments from those around them for doing what is necessary to get through their pregnancies. It isn't enough that the joy that most women expect from pregnancy has been robbed from them, that they have become isolated and alone through the fact they cannot move without being sick, and that they have become a shadow of their former self. No, all people seem to see is that they are pregnant and that they are 'making a fuss'.

And this, unfortunately, is a common experience, not just for women with HG, but anyone suffering from any medical condition that is poorly understood and rarely recognised. And it needs to change.

So while the mainstream media continues to suggest the Duchess of Cambridge is suffering from a 'bad case of morning sickness', let's do something different and provide a place of understanding and support. HG is hard enough, without being in the public eye. Let's not make it harder for poor Kate.