NWA Mama Doc: Kate Middleton, a royal baby and hyperemesis gravidarum


By Haley Vo, Mercy physician and mama of 3

Just like most everyone else, I was thrilled to learn that Prince William and Kate Middleton were expecting their first child. Thrilled!  When People Magazine arrived at my house last week I was giddy at the sight of their picture on the cover.

I can’t wait to see what she wears, which name she picks for her child, how the nursery will be decorated…I might be obsessed! As I write this, though, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be pregnant in the public eye. Can you imagine all of the world carefully watching your ever-expanding waistline?

Unfortunately for Kate, this pregnancy has not been picture perfect. She was forced to announce that she was carrying a future monarch when she was hospitalized with hyperemesis gravidarum. That has led many to wonder:

What is hyperemesis gravidarum???

Simply stated, it’s morning sickness to a much higher degree. To break down some medical terms, hyper=a lot, emesis=puking, gravidarum=pregnancy.  I hope that makes a little more sense.

Now, we expect most women to have some degree of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It’s no fun, but it’s the truth. All the extra hormones cause a little melee in your body, and this is just one of the results. Hyperemesis is a little different.

There is no firmly accepted criteria for hyperemesis, but most would say that if a woman loses more than 5% of her pre-pregnancy weight, she could be diagnosed. Also, if she vomits until she is dehydrated or needs IV fluids, she would qualify for hyperemesis.

There are a few things that are associated with hyperemesis. One of them is being pregnant with twins! Royal twins! I’m sure that the Princess already knows if she’s having twins or not. I’m sure that she has had an early ultrasound to verify how many babies are present. Still, I can keep my fingers crossed and dream.

Another thing that is associated with hyperemesis is a family history of this. If your mom threw her guts up until the day you were born, well, sister, things may not be so rosy for you. This is not always the case, so don’t despair if your mother was miserable.

A rare thing that can cause hyperemesis is a molar pregnancy. A molar pregnancy is an egg that is fertilized, but the division of cells doesn’t happen correctly and a fetus doesn’t develop. This is very rare.

I’m sure that Kate is getting the best medical care possible. In addition to eating small, frequent meals, and eating bland food like crackers and ginger ale, we are able to treat hyperemesis with antinausea drugs that are safe during pregnancy. That doesn’t always stop the vomiting completely, but usually helps. Some women need IV fluids , and rarely a woman will need nutrition through an IV.

Take heart, Kate. This too shall pass. For all of you other mamas out there that are wondering, your doctor can ensure that you are taking in enough nutrition to have a healthy baby. She can also try to help ease your symptoms. Good luck, and keep those crackers close at hand.

To visit with Dr. Vo in person, you can schedule an appointment with her by calling the Mercy Clinic Primary Care Sugar Creek in Bella Vista.  It’s located at 24 Sugar Creek Center and the phone number is 479-876-1414. Same day appointments are available at the clinic.

If you have a general health question for Dr. Vo, you can email it to mamas@nwaMotherlode.com and she may answer it in a future post.