Duchess of Cambridge has extreme form of morning sickness

Symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum include vomiting and dizziness, and doctors say it is easy to treat

Hyperemesis gravidarum, for which the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to hospital, is an extreme form of morning sickness. Charlotte Bronte is reputed to have died of it in 1855, but nowadays doctors say it is a routine complication of pregnancy and easy to treat.

It is the name given to the situation when a pregnant woman cannot hold down fluids and becomes so dehydrated that she needs medical treatment, especially rehydration, to help her recover. "The symptoms include intractable vomiting, an inability to hold down food, dizziness or light-headedness, lethargy, headaches and sometimes actually fainting", said Dr Justin Clark, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Birmingham women's hospital.

A urine dipstick test analyses the ketones in the woman's urine to establish whether or not she is dehydrated. If she is, treatment includes rehydration with intravenous fluids, usually into a vein in the back of the hand, along with a dose of anti-emetic tablets to prevent further sickness. Some mothers-to-be also receive vitamin supplements, especially thiamine.

The woman usually feels better quite quickly, sometimes within hours. But the condition can recur up until the 12th or 14th week of pregnancy; it is not necessarily a one-off event. Sufferers usually spend no more than a day or two in hospital, and some women are treated as outpatients.

"We advise women who get it to eat small meals regularly, avoid fatty or spicy foods, drink plenty of fluids and take anti-sickness tablets regularly. Kate will probably have this sickness on and off throughout the first trimester, but most women get over it by then," said Clark, who is also a council member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.


Denis Campbell, health correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announce they are expecting first baby

Duchess taken to the King Edward VII hospital in central London, suffering from very acute morning sickness

Caroline Davies

03, Dec, 2012 @10:57 PM

Article image
Don’t save it for the duchess. All new mothers should be treated like royalty | Gaby Hinsliff
Rather than treating royal births as mundane events, why don’t we celebrate all the ordinary women who give birth, says Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff

Gaby Hinsliff

24, Apr, 2018 @11:45 AM

Article image
Duchess of Cambridge baby weight coverage disgraceful, says minister
Jo Swinson singles out OK! magazine for criticism and says media needs to rethink its attitude towards women's bodies

Sam Jones

28, Jul, 2013 @11:11 AM

Article image
Duchess of Cambridge to give birth at Lindo Wing of St Mary's hospital
Royal baby will be born in same private maternity facilities as Princes William and Harry, it is understood

Caroline Davies

19, Jun, 2013 @3:53 PM

Article image
Duchess of Cambridge leaves hospital after bout of sickness

Expectant mother will rest at Kensington Palace after three nights at the King Edward VII private hospital in London

Caroline Davies

06, Dec, 2012 @7:05 PM

Article image
Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to boy
Birth of William and Kate’s third child is announced to public by Kensington Palace with a tweet

Martin Belam and Kevin Rawlinson

23, Apr, 2018 @12:13 PM

Article image
Royal baby: Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a boy – as it happened

Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to a baby boy, the future heir to the British throne, at St Mary's hospital in London

Paul Owen, Peter Walker, Ben Quinn and Adam Gabbatt

22, Jul, 2013 @11:17 PM

Article image
Court awards Duchess of Cambridge damages over topless photos
French court rules Kate’s privacy was breached in case over paparazzi shots published in celebrity magazine

Kim Willsher in Paris

05, Sep, 2017 @3:49 PM

Article image
Lucy Mangan: the nation rejoices at Wills and Kate's baby news

'Pippa's drafting her latest cash-in volume. "Babies are an excellent way of continuing the family line"'

Lucy Mangan

07, Dec, 2012 @11:00 PM

Article image
The pregnant Duchess of Cambridge and I are in (almost) the same boat | Naomi McAuliffe
Naomi McAuliffe: Not even a private hospital wing serving champagne can shield women from the messy indignities of pregnancy and birth

Naomi McAuliffe

21, Jun, 2013 @12:32 PM