Acute morning sickness: What is it
The Duchess of Cambridge at an event Sunday at St. Andrew's School in Pangbourne, England.
December 3rd, 2012
03:10 PM ET

Acute morning sickness: What is it

Whenever there's a royal wedding, waiting for the news that a royal heir is on the way is always the next step.  Less than two years after Britain's Prince William wed his bride Catherine Middleton, word of a royal pregnancy was eagerly anticipated.  Now we know Catherine is having a baby.

But the world didn't find out in the form of a photo revealing a conspicuous baby bump.  Rather, the news broke when Buckingham Palace announced Monday the Duchess of Cambridge has been "admitted ... to King Edward VII Hospital in Central London with hyperemesis gravidarum," - which means excessive vomiting during pregnancy.

As most mothers can attest, feeling nauseated during pregnancy is not unusual, so why is the duchess hospitalized?

There are no details from the royal family, but hyperemesis gravidarum is a fairly common condition for women who are sensitive to the higher hormone levels that come with pregnancy.  Each month during a woman's menstrual cycle, the estrogen circulating through her body rises, says Dr. James Liu, who is the chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at MacDonald Women’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.

"But once a woman achieves pregnancy the ovary at the beginning and later on the placenta makes much higher levels of estrogen and progesterone; and very high levels of estrogen in general can have an effect on a part of the brain called the chemoreceptor zone and it causes nausea." During pregnancy, the hormone levels can rise 100 to 1,000 times the amount of a normal menstrual cycle.

Extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy may occur if a woman is carrying more than one baby, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Another possible cause for higher hormone levels leading to excessive nausea is something called abnormal placentation, where the placenta overgrows, says Liu, adding that this happens only occasionally.

Usually, excessive vomiting is treated on an outpatient basis, where the mom-to-be is given anti-nausea medication, usually in pill form.  But vomiting can lead to dehydration - a concern for a pregnant woman.

If she is very dehydrated, being in the hospital allows her to get fluids intravenously.  Her electrolytes or blood minerals may also be somewhat abnormal, which can be corrected through an IV too.

If she's been vomiting a lot, she probably hasn't been able to keep oral anti-nausea medication down - another reason she may be hospitalized and receive IV medication, says Liu, who is not involved in the duchess' care.

The severity of nausea during pregnancy varies from woman to woman, Liu says. Some may experience nausea but may not vomit, while others may be very sensitive, vomit excessively and are unable to keep fluids down.

The good news is that the nausea usually goes away by the end of the first trimester, says Liu. "The first 12 weeks of the pregnancy is the most common time we see this."

soundoff (94 Responses)
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    December 7, 2012 at 06:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Chatay

    I'm gad that this is now known to help other women so they don't feel lost like I did that everyone would point the finger at me and think or said you need to take better care of yourself but this sickness takes over you I felt like I was going to die that is the most scarest feel and at the same you worry about the miracle that is inside and I felt like it was a battle and had to save my baby.so lady's try your best stay positive and don't give up because at the end of that long tunnel is what you've been waiting for your miracle. I'm happy too say that the journey was hard but I have the most wonderful and amazing son twelve years ago.and I was blessed to conceive a second time Thank you god . I also have a great husband who was my cheerier
    He never give up even in the darkest times I thank god for him.

    December 9, 2012 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Denis Hoggins

    Nausea is a non-specific symptom, which means that it has many possible causes. Some common causes of nausea are motion sickness, dizziness, migraine, fainting, gastroenteritis (stomach infection) or food poisoning. Side effects of many medications including cancer chemotherapy, nauseants or morning sickness in early pregnancy. Nausea may also be caused by anxiety, disgust and depression.'-'-

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    June 29, 2013 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3lstGSbAK0

    First time being pregnant. I'm about 4-5 weeks and feel fine. I'm really sleepy, like REALLY sleepy. My boobs hurt and my stomach is a bottomless pit. No sickness yet. Normal?

    December 12, 2013 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
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  6. Sherley

    I wish more was known about this when I was pregnant with both of my kids. My daughter born in 2001 I was sick throughout my pregnancy causing me to lose 38lbs in my first trimester and my son born in 2005 I lost 34lbs. I wasn't able to keep ANYTHING down. I was given medication which was thru an IV rather then pills but it just didn't help. After having my son I had my tubes tided because I didn't want to go thru that again. I've greatful and bless to have my kids but I don't know how some women have so many kids and not have one issue.

    September 8, 2014 at 07:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Kymann

    This article's description of Hyperemesis Gravidarum is not quite accurate. HG is not a form of morning sickness. It is extremely debilitating, causes weight loss, dehydration, near constant vomiting, destruction of tooth enamel and tearing/bleeding of stomach and esophagus. I had H.G. During my pregnancy for 4 months and I was hospitalized twice and eventually placed on a pic line so that I could receive fluids and nutrition. I lost 12 lbs in my first trimester due to my inability to eat or drink anything. Most women who have this condition cannot take oral medicine (unlike what the article says) and need it given through a pump or IV. Some women miscarry due to HG. This condition is nothing like morning sickness at all!

    September 10, 2014 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Terri Smith

    I was pregnant in the 70's & 80's I believed I was allergic to my babies because I was sooooo sick it was crazy most of the time for 7 or 8 months. I lost weight I could not eat or smell anything. I tried everything. I constantly threw up. I spitted all day long I was a total mess. I worked and I'm not sure how I commuted on the bus cause I was so sick. I had tons of tissue cause I could not swallow my own spit and I spit and spit and spit...I know it looked very nasty. I could keep fruit down a little bit...nothing at all cooked cause if I looked at it or smelled it I threw up. Driving down the street you smell different smells but I had to pulled over and over because I had to throw up constantly. But I had 4 kids. My first one I did not have any sickness but the second one was a nightmare...a nightmare that came with my last 3 children. Everyone told me that it was morning sickness but I had it all day long for months, now I feel really good because there is a name for it. I was the sickest person I have ever seen pregnant except my daughter she had it too. I knew that my pregnancy was different now I know what it was.

    September 16, 2014 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Terri Smith

    I had 4 children and 3 of the pregnancies were pure hell. So sick I could hardly function but I had my children in 70's and 80's and was told by everyone of its just morning sickness. But I knew it was something else. I felt I was allergic to my own children. I had all day sickness for sometimes all the way to my 8 month...my 2nd child all the way to delivery. It was horrible I could not even swallow my own spit. So I spit all day long...I had to carry tons of tissue, I was a mess. Either I was throwing up or spitting. Im glad there is a name for it.

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