9 Things Moms Want You to Know About Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Moms give the inside scoop about the debilitating pregnancy condition that Kate Middleton is dealing with for the third time.

“Imagine the worst stomach virus you’ve ever had—where you’re just lying on the floor in the bathroom feeling like you’re going to die. Then imagine it lasting for 37 weeks.”

That’s how one mom describes her battle with hyperemesis gravidarum—a condition that’s back in the news again, thanks to Kate Middleton’s third pregnancy. (It’s estimated that HG affects up to 3 percent of pregnant women.) While Duchess Kate has the benefit of round-the-clock royal medical care, plus a team of nannies and a hands-on husband to help take care of George and Charlotte while she’s laid up, unfortunately she still has to suffer through the severe nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dehydration that any mortal mom with the condition experiences. Here, six women share what it really feels like:

1

It Can Hit You Out of the Blue

pregnant-woman-striped-dress
Photo by Suphat Bhandharangsri Photography/Getty Images

“With my first pregnancy, everything was going great. Then one day at around 6 or 7 weeks I was walking down the hall at work, perfectly fine one second, and the next second I was projectile vomiting—there was absolutely no warning. From then on, I never had a single non-nauseous moment in either of my pregnancies.” —Lisa Tucker, mom of two, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“I took a pregnancy test at five weeks and felt fine. Then two days later I felt horrible. I was shocked, I had never heard of HG, I had no idea this could happen! My mom had four kids, my sister had four kids and they had great pregnancies and always told me they loved being pregnant. At first I thought it was just regular morning sickness and it would be over soon, so I was counting down the days to 12 weeks, when I was told it would go away, but it never went away.” —Yael Wyner, mom of two, Brooklyn, New York

“I thought at first it was morning sickness. I had read every pregnancy book, worked in health care as a licensed practical nurse, took vitamins and iron, and I was never sick before in my life! I felt so unhealthy even though I know many women have this.” —Felicia Metcalfe, mom of one, Halifax, NS

2

Medicine Can Help—a Little Bit

“My first doctor didn’t believe in using any drugs during pregnancy, so I did some research and found a nurse practitioner who specialized in HG. She prescribed Zofran, which is an anti-nausea medicine used for chemotherapy patients. It got me to a point where I was still vomiting, but was functioning. Before, I was just lying on the floor in the bathroom waiting to vomit again.” —Lisa Tucker

“They hadn’t done a ton of studies yet on Zofran’s safety yet, and it was super-expensive and not on my insurance, so my doctor just gave me a lot of free samples. It helped control the vomiting, but the nausea was so debilitating I would tell people it was like having the worst stomach virus, all the time. The only good thing is the symptoms didn’t keep me up at night, so I was able to sleep.” —Yael Wyner

“With my first two pregnancies, the drugs really weren’t being used for HG yet, so I didn’t take anything. By my third pregnancy, my doctor gave me Zofran and Reglan, plus Prevacid for my reflux. The medication took the edge off, but I was still vomiting every 15 minutes around the clock. I never went anywhere without my Ziploc baggies.” —Leslie Cassidy, mom of three, Long Island

3

You’ll Eat Whatever You Can Get Down, No Matter How Unhealthy

“The only things I could eat were highly processed foods, like Oreos and Entenmann’s donuts. And extremely soft-boiled eggs. I had a terrible metallic taste in my mouth and for some reason, soft eggs were the only things I could take. I found out that all those things doctors tell you you have to do in a normal pregnancy, like taking prenatal vitamins and eating a healthy diet, they don’t matter much. The body will do what it has to do to support the baby.” —Yael Wyner

“With my first pregnancy, I couldn’t keep anything down until one day my husband came home with a box of Eggo waffles. That’s all I ate that entire pregnancy, six dry waffles a day. During my third pregnancy, all I ate was a bag of Lindt chocolates each day. I was worried at first about how this would affect the baby, but my doctor assured me the baby was growing. I lost weight the first few months, but then I started gaining.” —Leslie Cassidy

“I was worried about the baby because I didn’t gain any weight until the sixth month. The obstetrician said our baby would only be six pounds, but she wound up being almost nine pounds and healthy!” —Felicia Metcalfe

“I did all the things my doctors advised: keep crackers next to my bed and take a bite before I went to sleep and when I woke up, take small sips of water. I even set an alarm on my phone every 30 minutes to remind me to have a bite of a cracker and some protein, but whatever touched my lips, I couldn’t keep down.”–Emily Shackelford, mom of two, Bloomington, IN

I had severe nausea for the first five months. It was so bad that I couldn’t even drink water and even looking at vegetables was sickening—and I’m vegetarian! I am still scarred by a cabbage that was in the fridge.” Ellen Duckman, mom of one, Toronto



4

Plus, Everything Smells Horrible

“Smells would turn my stomach. Walking past stores on my way to work was awful. I tried to find streets with smells I liked, and the only thing I could stand was the smell right after they washed down the sidewalks in the morning. The subway was horrible—I would be on one end of the car, and there could be someone eating fried chicken on the other end, and it was unbearable. I was like a bloodhound.” —Yael Wyner

“I couldn’t eat or even smell anything spicy. I had to have my husband pack up all our spices and put them in a closet because the smell made me sick.” —Emily Shackelford

5

Dealing With HG When You Already Have a Baby Is a Major Challenge

“I had to stop nursing my oldest when I got pregnant with my second just nine months later, because I couldn’t keep any food down so I wasn’t getting enough nutrition. It was terrible psychologically. The upside is that I spent so much of my time sitting on the couch and in bed, so we were able to get in some good snuggle time.” —Lisa Tucker

“I went on disability during my second pregnancy. My husband took the baby to daycare and I had a babysitter who would pick him up and make dinner. I couldn’t do anything but read to him, and I felt so sick that it was always in a dead, monotone voice.” —Yael Wyner

“I never had a babysitter or any help, I just had to power through. When people tell me they miss babyhood or being pregnant, I say I don’t miss it at all! It was so hard.” —Leslie Cassidy

6

It’s So Serious, You Could Even Wind Up in the Hospital

“Due to my inability to eat or drink, I developed a severe urinary tract infection, which was mostly asymptomatic until it reached my kidneys. The doctor kept telling me it was gas, until I ended up in the ER.” —Ellen Duckman

“With the first pregnancy, I wound up going to the ER about five times to get IV fluids, because I was so dehydrated. I always felt great immediately afterwards, but it didn’t last. After a while I was so dehydrated that they placed a PICC line in my arm, which is a semi-permanent IV. I had a home health nurse who would come and give me fluids through the PICC line at home. It was not a fun pregnancy.” —Emily Shackelford



7

A Lot of People Think You’re Being a Drama Queen

“When I was pregnant the first time, no one really knew about HG, and in some medical books, it was still considered a psychological condition—that I really didn’t want the baby and it was all in my head! I had some nurses tell me I had to get over it, that I was being overly dramatic.” —Lisa Tucker

“There were some people who said, Oh my goodness, I threw up, too! I don’t want to diminish what other moms have gone through, but a lot of people just didn’t understand the level of the sickness. It’s hard to communicate how difficult it is, how you can’t leave the house or keep up with friends. Thankfully, my family was really supportive. It’s great that Kate Middleton is speaking out about it and bringing awareness to the issue.” —Emily Shackleford

8

The Good News: It Goes Away as Soon as the Baby Comes Out

“I was very worried that my food aversions would carry over and I’d never be able to eat anything again. But Zoe was born around breakfast time, and by lunch I said to my husband, I’m starving! He went to all my favorite places in the neighborhood and came back with lunch and everything tasted good again.” —Lisa Tucker

“After I delivered, it was like a light switch went on, I felt so much better.” —Emily Shackelford

“I felt like a million bucks once I delivered the baby.” —Felicia Metcalfe

9

HG Makes You Really Think Hard About Whether You Want to Have Another Baby

“I always wanted two children but I just couldn’t do a third. My first baby was easy, so I was ready pretty quickly for another. I said, I gotta do this now, before the dread of pregnancy makes me change my mind! I hoped I wouldn’t get HG again, but I did.” —Yael Wyner

“I do think the physical symptoms contributed to my stopping after having one child. Also, I didn’t think I could physically go through another pregnancy in my 40s, and my daughter was perfect and robustly healthy, so we decided not to press our luck.” —Ellen Duckman

“I was scared to get pregnant again, because of how horrendous both previous pregnancies were, but I didn’t feel that my family was complete, and the thought that I might regret not having the big family I had envisioned was more powerful than the fear of going through the incredible discomfort again.” —Leslie Cassidy

“It helped that I was more prepared the second time. The first time I was hesitant to start any medications, and that probably caused me to get more dehydrated than I should have. With the second one, at the first sign of nausea, I went right to the doctor. Also, I knew with the second pregnancy that there was an end point. With the first it felt like it would never be over, that this was the new normal. But with the second I knew I would eventually feel better.” —Emily Shackelford

“It’s like childbirth. You remember intellectually that you felt terrible, but you want to have the baby anyway.” —Lisa Tucker