What It’s Like to Have Kate Middleton’s “Severe Morning Sickness”

Kate Middleton

Kristen Kemp, author of the Parents.com blog Mom Must Readknows the torture the Duchess is experiencing right now. She had hyperemesis gravidarum—through two pregnancies—too. She shares her experiences:

I wouldn’t wish hyperemesis gravidarum even on evil people. Not on my former coworker who told our boss that I sucked and should be fired (and then stole my sweater); not on the girl who burned my eyebrow skin off last week during a wax; and not on the young woman who stole my Visa and charged $2,357 at Target. I would never hope for a royal like Kate Middleton to have hyperemesis, no matter how much I covet her clothes and her seats at the Olympics. But since Kate does have this nightmare illness through no ill will of mine, I am glad. While I ache when I think of her public suffering, I also feel vindicated. What I went through is difficult to explain, and most people don’t believe my condition was real. It was not all in my head—Kate is proof.

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) tried to kill me during both of my pregnancies. I took gobs of medication, checked in for several stays at the hospital and, as a last resort, considered abortion at the suggestion of my ob-gyn. I could not eat or drink a thing, so I fought dehydration. Worse though, I was nauseous every second of the day. Imagine having food poisoning for 13 weeks straight. Vomiting offers no relief. Your stomach is an empty pit, so all you feel is acidic and painful gagging.

I am sorry if you’re eating right now.

I try not to use the words hyperemesis and morning sickness in the same sentence (minus this exception). The two conditions share one only one trait—they come on in early pregnancy. Otherwise, they are distant cousins, 100 times removed. Barfing your head off nonstop causes a ridiculous amount of physical and emotional pain.

The first time I got pregnant, I found out I was having twins, which meant double the hormones and an increased risk of HG. My doctor and I hoped I wouldn’t have hyperemesis again if I got pregnant with a singleton. So I did. And the second time, it was worse. At about 6 or 7 weeks, my sense of smell turned prophetic. I could sense food rotting in my husband’s stomach. I had to run out of Ikea because I couldn’t handle the odors of the shoppers. By week 7, all smells were intolerable, and even a whiff of sugary vanilla milkshake would send me over the edge. Garlic, coffee, and my toddlers’ diapers might as well have been explosive devices.

My husband made me a hyperemesis nest on the third-floor attic of our house. He dragged a mattress upstairs because I couldn’t stand the smell of him while he slept. He set up a TV that I could barely watch because the images made me dizzy. He gave me a bottle of Lysol to battle the evil that lurked in the air. He and the kids had to stay on the first floor eating fragrance-free cold sandwiches or going to restaurants. We spent thousands of dollars on babysitters who watched the twins during his work hours. I was useless.

I dove into a deep depression. My body emphatically hated being pregnant. I couldn’t hold down food, so I worried that I wasn’t nourishing my fetus. I couldn’t be anywhere near another person from Week 7 through Week 18, so I was lonely. I was so dehydrated that I started seeing bright colors and flames (dehydration can cause hallucinations), and there were crystals in my pee from the uric acid buildup.

Those were the signs that I had to go back to the hospital for IV fluids and nutrition. My husband and my ob-gyn took me seriously, but no one else did. In the maternity unit, nurses left me in the corner barfing for hours while they saw other patients. One told me I just needed to take ginger, remember how lucky I was to be pregnant, and eat ice chips. I wanted to puke on her—and I probably did. Did she really believe I hadn’t thought of those things a million times before?

My doctor gave me a prescription for Zofran, a drug used to ease nausea for people on chemo. It didn’t help the nausea, but I could keep down small bits of food—mainly Fritos—and watch TV. He ordered me to get a PICC line—a tube surgically inserted into a vein in my upper arm—so I could be hooked up to an IV bag 24 hours a day. Thank goodness for our health insurance that paid for all of this and also my daily home nurse. If only they had covered the sitters.

I fell in love with my IV bag.

I stopped contemplating abortion and started telling myself I could get through the second pregnancy. I’d already given birth to my twins, so I knew the absolute joy of hugging new babies. As I convalesced on the third floor, I repeated the mantra: New babies are fun to hug; new babies are fun to hug. And I watched the movie Garden State 17 times. I waited it out. By 18 weeks, the hyperemesis vanished as quickly as it had come on. I had an easy delivery with my baby son. I figured I had earned that much.

Taking care of a newborn was cake compared to living with hyperemesis, so I rocked at infancy. But my husband didn’t want me to rock too much. He said he’d go nuts if he had to live through another pregnancy, so he had a vasectomy within the month. He is smarter than I am, and that’s why I married him.

The more Kate Middleton pukes—I just read she was unwell again after her four-day stay in the hospital—the more people will sympathize with insanely sick pregnant women. We aren’t crazy. We don’t secretly hate our fetuses—a real comment I recently read. We aren’t making up our misery. I wish other women would’ve said, “God, that’s awful. I can’t imagine. Would it help if I invited your husband and kids over for dinner?” I needed to borrow DVDs and gossip magazines. But mostly I got saltine cracker advice and dirty looks when I barfed on the street.

I had a freak illness, but I was not a freak. Just ask Kate Middleton.

Image of Kate Middleton via Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

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  1. by SAmantha

    On December 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    I have two daughters, and I suffered with hyperemesis with my first. I felt great until I was about 6 weeks pregnant and then it hit me out of nowhere. I literally was a useless person. I couldn’t even suck on an ice cube without throwing up. I was so weak from not eating/drinking that I couldn’t leave the couch. After a week, I tried to go back to work feeling guilty, and they took one look at me and called my husband insisting he come get me and take me to the hospital. They kept me at the hospital for a day on an IV and I started to feel better (not well, but better) so they sent me home, and I was sick again as we pulled into the driveway. I lost 20 pounds in my first trimester (and I was not overweight to begin with…I looked like I was dying). I felt awful and like I was a horrible person. I felt unworthy of being a mom, like I was just a big baby and women get pregnant every day. I was sick for a month straight…and I felt guilty about that month until I got pregnant the second time. When six weeks hit, I had what you would call standard morning sickness…I was a little nauseous…tired. I threw up 2-3 times a day, but I was able to move and do things…I could eat and drink…I could function. I would throw up before getting ready for work, after lunch, when I got home and just chalk it up to the baby growing inside of me. That was when I knew what I had before was not me being weak…it was not normal at all! I feel for Kate!! She can do it though!

  2. by Jenn l

    On December 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    I take offense to your casual statement of abortion as a solution to you extreme morning sickness. reading this extreme pity party on aparenting site like this made me feel anything but pity. Shame on you for such a whiny article. I couldn’t even finish it! Honestly…way too extreme and self indulgent. I’m also sick of hearing about the duchess. I’m an American. She’s not ineresting to me. I never write anything like this, but really, I had to say this could have been written with more style and less “oh poor me”. Walk in my shoes for a few days. We all have trials and tribulations, and I don’t think mine are worse than others, just different

  3. by Angela F.

    On December 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    One of my sweet friends suffered from HG with both her pregnancies. Her second was worst than her first & I saw firsthand what HG did to her – the sickness, the weight loss, the misery. It is not morning sickness and I wish more people would understand that and realize that this lasted ALL 9 months of pregnancy. It is a sacrifice. Not many women who have HG the first time around go through a second pregnancy. It is horrible on your body and on your mind. I pray that Kate Middleton gets support for what she will have to endure and that more people will understand the severity of this condition.

  4. by Jeanette

    On December 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I’m with Jenn; I was offended by your casual statement regarding abortion (as a solution to your misery). And as a heads-up, Lysol would be the WORST thing to start releasing into the air if you’re sick to your stomach. And you mentioned you “thought” of taking ginger. Did you actually make “fresh” organic ginger tea and consume it? The stuff rocks! Acupuncture is also very beneficial. And Fritos, you say? Are you kidding me?

  5. by Meghan

    On December 11, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Jenn I, I take extreme offense to your calling of this article a pity party. I had extreme morning sickness with my first NOT hg. I could barely function but I did. With hg you can’t. I believe the article states that it was her dr’s suggestion to have an abortion, not hers. How dare women attack each other!!! I am so sick of this! We need to be supportive and not think that people are crazy! To the author: I commend you for your candor. Thank you. I am having morning sickness with my second currently and it is NOTHING in comparison to what I experienced with my first and like I said, I definitely did not have hg. God bless you for getting through it!

  6. by Heather

    On December 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    I feel for Kate. I have lupus and had HG through both of my pregnancies for the entire 34 weeks I was pregnant (both my girls were early). With my first I was in the hospital 3 times and finally they got insurance approval for me to have IV at home all night while I slept and also a pump which was constantly pushing anti nausea drugs into my system. My second pregnancies I was in the hospital 8 times and then went to the L&D every morning for a bag of IV fluids before work to keep me going. I ws in nursing school and would make “deals” w my dr that I would go into the hospital IF he would let me out for exams etc so I wouldn’t fall behind, so I’d go to class w an IV in my arm. But we would do anything for our babies wouldn’t we? I joke that it was the best weight loss program I’d found, but honestly I was miserable from about week 3 until the very end and with lupus piled on top it was a rough go. But I have two beautiful girls and so NOW I can say it was worth it. I hope the Dutchess only has to go through this for her first trimester and I don’t think a lot of people really understand how serious it is. I know ppl would tell me it ws “all in my head” and to suck it up… But I can vouch it most certainly was not! Lol

  7. by Andy

    On December 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Oh my “Jenn I”! High horse much?! What this woman described is a severe illness and even though I can’t relate, having never gone through it, I can sympathize. Now just because she mentions abortion as a desperate idea that was “even suggested by her doctor” you go all freaky on her. Give me a brake! Maybe you should use some of the so called “Christian values” I bet are the reason for your reaction and be a little less judgmental? Also, the duchess may be British, but she is still a woman. Maybe in all your insular “wisdom” you forget women are the same everywhere. If by going through this in such a public way (be it forced by the media or not) she can help women be better understood, it’s worth taking about. People like you are why Americans are judged world wide as ignorants.

  8. by Erin G

    On December 11, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Jenn….you are an idiot and have obviously never suffered through something like this. Nobody asked you to read the article or comment. So next time keep you ignorant comments to yourself.

    I suffered through HG with my first. I, too, would not wish this on my worst enemy. To this day (4.5 years later) I cannot listen to certain songs or smell certain foods without making me convulse. It took me 3 years before the memory was distant enough that I felt it was OK to try to get pregnant again. Thankfully the second time I did not suffer from HG. I definitely had MS and a lot of throwing up but at least this time I could function. There is a major difference between MS and HG!

    I can sympathize with Kate.

  9. by Kelly

    On December 11, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    This is all just a poor excuse for morning sickness because I had it too, and the hospital they prescribed me medication to take before I ate or drank anything to stop me from throwing up……….but its just extreme morning sickness. It comes from being pregnant. Just deal and stop whining, you’re all acting like little princess’ just like Kate Middleton.

  10. by jill

    On December 11, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    “Gosh, that’s awful. I can’t imagine” :)

  11. by S

    On December 11, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Wow to Jeanette and Kelly- essentially saying “suck it up, it’s pregnancy”. If meds or ginger tea stopped your nausea good for you. That DOES NOT WORK with true HG. Dehydration can do severe things to the body. I was blessedly free of morning sickness for my pregnancies but have met women in the hospital on IV’s for their hydration. Would you also tell a cancer patient to suck it up and deal with the sickness??

  12. by Valentina

    On December 12, 2012 at 12:30 am

    I was pregnant twice all my pregnancies were naturally conceived and the second pregnancy happened to be with triplets. In both pregnancies the first trimester was very hard to handle. All day throwing up, couldn’t eat anything, any smell send me to the bathroom just to throw up again, loosing weight etc. Generally, I could handle everything but the first trimester. My husband helped me as much as he could, and he did great job. What did I do when he was at work you ask? I was throwing up and took care of my toddler. So, I totally agree with an author on that I know what is the feeling like.

    Therefore, an author of this article seems to be rich and that’s why fragile person. For me seems very dangerous thoughts like thinking of abortion just to easy the pain? At the same time spending thousand of dollars on nannies to help to deal with every day sickness? No wondering the author felt useless. The nurses were not serious? Perhaps they had to take care of most serious patients. As you said, you are not alone with your morning sickness, so why you should be treated extra? And after all who cares about the Kate Middleton? Perhaps her husband and the media and maybe the author.

  13. by Pat

    On December 12, 2012 at 3:49 am

    I am sorry for your experience but you lost me at this line, “nurses left me in the corner barfing for hours while they saw other patients.” What did you want them to do, stand at your side holding back your hair? For “hours”? Get real, honey. Those other patients probably had more urgent needs than yours. You sound like a spoiled nightmare of a patient.

  14. by Julie

    On December 12, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Some of you people are CRAZY! Having to put a PICC line in you is not a pity party!! Would you say that to a chemo patient, tell them to buck up and stop feeling sorry for yourself. And no she wasn’t asking the nurses to hold her hand for hours she was asking for a little sympathy. She wasn’t just casually throwing out there about abortion she was commenting on what her ob/gyn told her. Anyone who complained that she ate Fritos has NEVER been pregnant or the stomach flu. I had traditional all day morning sickness with my first for 3 mths and can tell you I could barely keep water down. And FYI anyone who experiences this kind of pregnancy deserves a pity party!

  15. by Kristen

    On December 12, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Thanks to all of you for reading my story. I want to say that if I had relied on organic ginger as a treatment for hyperemesis, my son and I would be dead. Like all nauseous pregnant women, I tried everything, starting with the mildest treatments, first. As the illness progressed into a dangerous situation, I had to take stronger medications. I checked into the hospital. And yes, the nurses left me in the corner puking for hours which was negligent. At that point, I already had an order for an IV, and putting one in would have taken a nurse 3 or 4 minutes and provided me with immense relief. After that, the RNs could have left me for hours unattended. I did not complain at the time because I was too sick to do so. Looking back at it, it makes me sad that even some health professionals don’t believe how desperate women with HG feel. This is not a controversial disease. It is well-documented and real. Ob-gyns seem to understand that, thank God. Left untreated, women and their unborn babies will die. If I’d been pregnant a century ago, I wouldn’t have had a chance.

  16. by Ilana

    On December 12, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I too suffered from HG and it was awful. The constant vomiting, the painful nausea that never stopped, the inability to function. I had to take a sick leave from work. I was down to 88 pounds, and at the time even my doctor didn’t really understand or sympathize. His great reccomendation was ginger and Cola syrup. I wanted to literally throw it in his face. To this day I can recall the crying and screaming from the relentless cramps and unceasing retching, and the taste of the bile in my mouth. They said that it usually is not as bad after your first pregnancy, so we got pregnant again. And it was just as bad, but now I had a toddler to take care of. Thank God by this pregnancy Zofran was approved for use by pregnant women (it hadn’t been during my first). Needless to say I switched doctors. And although I was nervous using drugs, I really felt I had no choice. And to this day I say thank God for Zofran. We now have four happy and healthy kids. One thing I am sure of is that without the drugs I would never have had more children. HG is that bad.

  17. by Christina M

    On December 12, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this Kristen. I think it’s impossible for anyone to imagine just how bad it is without being in the situation and that it’s brave of you to put your story out there to help us learn more. I feel for anyone going through morning sickness AT ALL, let alone severe morning sickness or HG. I’m glad that everything turned out okay and that you luckily had some people who understood the seriousness of the situation.

  18. by Jill H

    On December 12, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Jenn is one of those people who refuse to empathize. It was not a “casual statement about abortion”. I had hyperemesis with my 3 pregnancies (the first two were way worse than the third though. Though the third was no picnic either) and I can totally relate to everything in this article. I was hospitalized as well and one of my “friends” even wouldn’t let me hold her daughter because she was certain I was in the hospital for something contagious because you “don’t go to the hospital for morning sickness”. Nice, huh? This article was not a pity party. It was describing an illness – an experience that is not a fun one. Jenn, would you say the same to a cancer patient describing their illness? Did you know that Author Charlotte Bronte DIED from hyperemesis? Do you even know who Charlotte Bronte was? Probably not. Back to Kristen, thank you do much for describing your experience. It is hard when we experience something that cause others to judge us. But hyperemesis is very real!

  19. by Melissa

    On December 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Kristen -

    I thank you for this article and being brave enough to write it, considering you knew ignorant people like Jen, Kelly, Pat and Jeanette would have nothing nice to say about it. I to suffered from HG, had a PICC line inserted and became so very ill, I had to have a blood transfusion, pretty sure all of which do not stem from morning sickness. I was lucky to be surrounded by wonderful family and friends, all of which are now very educated about HG and very empathetic. These people definitely have never suffered from this illness or never watched someone they love suffer from it. If they had, their feeling would be different. Just know those of us who have suffered HG and those with a heart, support your article fully. (And trying to stay a level above those ignorant people, but Jeanette you can take your Ginger tea and stuff it!)

  20. by Katie Joy Newhouse

    On December 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I’m glad the awareness is getting out there too. What an awful thing to go through. Makes me even more thankful for my health! Praise the Lord for your little ones. Wish I could have known you and prayed alongside you as you experienced this. No fun!

  21. by Katie Joy Newhouse

    On December 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    P.S. I guess that is a good reminder that I can be praying for Kate right now. =)

  22. [...] Read about one woman’s experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Filed under: Health Article tags: pregnancy, women's health [...]

  23. by Tara

    On January 8, 2013 at 1:29 am

    I too am hoping that the princess having this condition will help the general public understand this better. I was crying reading your post out of empathy. I still feel like I have PTSD when I think about my last pregnancy (although I had severe vomiting with some of my others, but it got the worst with my 5th baby). And yes, I felt like everyone around me were comparing their “oh, I felt nauseous for 5 weeks and threw up once” morning sickness with me, and thinking I was being overly dramatic. The smells really are the worst. I couldn’t eat anything that I smelled cooking so we ate out alot!

  24. by Cheap Small Freezers

    On February 25, 2013 at 5:27 am

    It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you can write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read even more things about it!

  25. by pomoc drogowa

    On April 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    You really make it seem really easy together with your presentation but I in finding this topic to be actually one thing which I believe I’d by no means understand. It kind of feels too complicated and very extensive for me. I’m taking a look ahead in your next put up, I will attempt to get the cling of it!

  26. by zobacz

    On May 6, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Major thankies for the post.Really thank you! Awesome.

  27. by please happy » Eating around the clock

    On September 8, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    [...] other thing that helped me not fall into hyperemesis gravidarum (see IVs, see weight loss, see Kate Middleton) was eating every two hours around the clock. Around the Clock. Often with tears and grumpiness [...]

  28. [...] wouldn’t wish hyperemesis gravidarum even on evil people,” wrote Parents blogger Kristen Kemp in a revealing first-person essay during news Middleton’s first difficult pregnancy. [...]

  29. by Sick? - First Trimester - Pregnancy Forum

    On November 22, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    [...] 21:37 PM   #9   http://www.parents.com/blogs/goodybl…ning-sickness/ So true [...]

  30. by Morning Sickness Sucks | Your Mom Dot Com

    On July 30, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    [...] But you know what? I had it bad, but I wasn’t even CLOSE to Hyperemesis Gravidarum, the chronic barfing affliction that hospitalized Kate Middleton… twice! I usually do not pity princesses, but good Lord I would never trade places with her. Not even for a million Jenny Packham gowns and perfect hair. The Duchess will probably never speak publicly about her experience, BUT THIS WOMAN DID! [...]