I’m sure you’ve all noticed the big announcement in the news this week – little Prince George is going to be a big brother. Obviously that’s very happy news, but like when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced their first pregnancy, this announcement has had to come earlier than the usual 12 week milestone when many people share their news because Kate is suffering again with Hyperemesis Gravidarum or HG – severe pregnancy sickness.
When the news broke last time, I felt the urge to write a blog post on it because of the way this severe form of pregnancy sickness was being talked about in the media. I kept reading about the fact that she was suffering from ‘morning sickness’, albeit an ‘acute’ or ‘severe’ case. This annoyed me then, and it still annoys me this time around, because there still seems to be a lack of understanding about what the poor mum is living with. Although the sickness I suffered in both pregnancies wasn’t quite as severe as hers, I do know what it’s like to have more than a spot of morning sickness.
Probably my biggest issue with the term ‘morning sickness’ and how it is used in reference to someone suffering with severe pregnancy sickness is the ‘morning’ bit of it. At the beginning of my pregnancies, I was sick any hour of the day and night, multiple times. In fact I’d say apart from the dash to the toilet as soon as I got up, I was sick more often towards the end of the day and into the evening, because the sickness was worse the more tired I was. In my second pregnancy, I can still distinctly remember feeling nauseous while in labour in the evening. HG is not confined to the morning, it takes over daily life, morning, afternoon, evening, night. I had a week off work when the sickness first hit in my first pregnancy, and I don’t take sick days lightly. In my second pregnancy I went to (paid) work for a rest as it was easier than looking after a toddler (not that I was very productive in that time).
This week I watched a TV programme in which a friend of mine, Amanda (who blogs at the Family Patch and has coauthored a book on HG) and TV doctor Dr Hilary were being interviewed about HG. It was great that they had invited someone in who has experienced HG and has researched a lot on the topic. Shame they also invited a (male) doctor who didn’t have a clue. One part of the interview that really annoyed me was when the doctor mentioned ginger. This natural substance has been found to relieve nausea, so is often suggested as something mums suffering from morning sickness can try. While this may well help those feeling a bit icky of a morning, in my experience it doesn’t do a thing for repeated vomiting and constant all-day nausea. If I had a pound for every time someone asked if I’d tried ginger when I was pregnant, at least I’d have made a fair financial profit from pregnancy. In all honesty, once I’d been asked for the umpteenth time, it was difficult not to slap the person asking! Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way about the mention of ginger in talk of pregnancy sickness – there were plenty of us shouting at the screen when the TV doctor mentioned it on this interview.
Another aspect of pregnancy sickness that I find misunderstood is the length of time that it can go on for. Everyone says that you’ll feel better at the end of the first trimester, to just hang on in there until 12 weeks then it’ll all be fine. I was disappointed that this wasn’t the case for me. In my first pregnancy, I continued being and feeling sick well into the second trimester. In my second pregnancy, I was still being sick until about half way (20 weeks) and the nausea didn’t go until I gave birth. Imagine having one of those 24 stomach bugs, the kind that means you throw everything up for about half a day and then feel nauseous and wiped out for the other half of the day. Now imagine that on a 9 month time scale. NOT NICE.
I, like many other mums, found that my sickness got worse (lasted longer) in my second pregnancy. I often get asked if we’d like a third child (mostly in reference to whether we’d like a girl – but that’s another blog post entirely) and my answer always goes something like this… No way at the moment! Some days and in some ways I’d quite like a third child, but the main thing that puts me off is doing pregnancy while looking after 2 active boys – I’d worry that my sickness would be even worse a third time round, and I’m not sure how I’d cope. I think having a newborn as well as the boys would still be hard work, but I think I could cope more with that than the 9 months before it. I know that some mums who’ve had severe pregnancy sickness decide to stick with an only child because they can’t face it again. This sickness is a serious matter if it puts you off having another child.
This royal baby is a second pregnancy, so the chances are, the Duchess is feeling even worse than last time and it might go on for longer. It’s encouraging, though, that she is being treated at home rather than hospital this time, particularly because she has another child to look after (though I’m sure she has plenty of help with that). As much as I wouldn’t wish HG on anyone, I do hope that the fact that someone so present in the media spotlight is suffering with it will ultimately help others – with blog posts like this and all the opportunities for previous sufferers to tell their stories to others while it is so prominent in the media coverage, I hope that awareness will be raised of exactly what it is like, how it’s not just about feeling a bit icky in the morning, and how ginger will not help, so don’t even suggest it!