‘Hyperemesis gravidarum left me bed-bound for seven months’

Belfast mum Angela Bingham
Belfast mum Angela Bingham

Kate Middleton’s absence was notable yesterday when the Duke of Cambridge turned up solo to leave the adorable Prince George off for his very first day at school. Having suffered similarly in the past the Duchess of Cambridge is said to have hyperemesis gravidarum during her third pregnancy.

The 37-year-old suffered with hyperemesis during both the pregnancies of her daughter Gracie and son Corey; at one stage it became so debilitating that she was hospitalised.

Angela was so traumatised by the experience that she decided to set up a Hyperemesis Gravidarum Northern Ireland Support Group on Facebook that helps women across the province deal with the condition by allowing them to chat to other mums in similar distress and share tips on how to manage it.

“I suffered for six months with my first pregnancy with my daughter Gracie and was hospitalised twice, but with my second pregnancy with my son Corey the feelings of nausea where so severe it was like nothing you could ever imagine. I ended up being hospitalised and put on a drip for a full seven months. By the time I gave birth to my son I weighed just about five and a half stone. I had been severely malnourished and couldn’t even hold down fluids.

“For the first pregnancy I didn’t know I had hyperemesis as I thought it was simply morning sickness even though I felt so ill. When a doctor diagnosed it they explained that it isn’t known what causes it.

“During my second pregnancy I was given some anti-nausea medications but nothing worked. I was so dehydrated and had to remain on a drip of saline fluids and a vitamin drip giving me things the body needs to retain some nutrition. “Sometimes the motion sickness of even just trying to get up to go to the bathroom was so bad my husband had to carry me and when I was at home my mother even had to help bath me. I felt sick constantly and was just so weak.”

The Belfast mum to Gracie, 9, and Corey, 5, suffered so severely that she explains she would not be prepared to become pregnant again after suffering such an horrendous bout of the condition.

“I was told if you suffer with hyperemesis in one pregnancy you are likely to get it again next time. My partner and I decided not to have anymore children as my husband said he couldn’t watch me go through such an ordeal again.”

The condition is considerably rare and affects just one per cent of pregnant mothers, causing excessive nausea and vomiting that can last for the full duration of pregnancy.

Hyperemesis is not like regular morning sickness in its severity and duration and can actually leave some women completely bed bound and unable to hold down food or drink without vomiting.

The condition is thought to be the second leading cause of hospitalisation during pregnancy and can lead to dehydration which can be dangerous for both mother and child. Dehydration can put babies at risk of developmental problems such as deformities because the constant vomiting may deprive the woman’s body of amniotic fluid which is essential for the unborn baby to thrive and develop healthily.

Although some women with hyperemesis are lucky enough to see symptoms improve at around 20 weeks some women will suffer right up until the baby is born.

Weight loss and even depression can be caused by the illness since many women are left unable to function normally and end up feeling unable to do anything except take bed rest.

It’s not known what causes the illness, or why some women get it and others don’t. Some experts believe it is linked to the changing hormones in the body that occur during pregnancy.

Treatment of the condition may involve a doctor prescribing anti-emetic or anti-sickness medications. In serious cases mums-to-be may have to be hospitalised and put on a drip to counteract the dangerous affects of dehydration that the condition can cause.

Angela says she is very sympathetic towards the Duchess of Cambridge who will have to cut back on public appearances while she battles the condition.

“I would have a lot of understanding for her not being able to leave her son off on his first day at school because of hyperemesis gravidarum. It is so terrible. You would literally try anything to make it stop or to bring it under control.”

Angela continues: “Suffering from hyperemesis I felt so lonely. Everybody was getting up and getting on with their lives and there you are stuck in bed unable to eat or drink or do anything. It can start to have a bad affect on your mental health and you can end up feeling very isolated from other people. That’s part of the reason I formed a support group so that other women can chat to those going through the same thing. It doesn’t just affect the mother, I hear from husbands who are at their wits’ end not knowing how to help their wives. It’s dispiriting because you can end up being so withdrawn from everything around you and your whole family can be affected by the emotional fallout.

“I couldn’t even hold down a cup of tea and it made my pregnancy just totally debilitating.

“After I had Corey I had to go to cognitive behavioural therapy because my mood had become so low and I had become so withdrawn. Food became my enemy because I had been so ill so I had to start trying to rethink things because my fear of being sick led to me avoiding food.”

Angela’s advice to other women suffering this illness is to see their GP or midwife and stay mindful of how the condition is affecting their mental health.

“Speak to people and be mindful of how you feel. If morning sickness is severe see the doctor or midwife, go and get it checked out.

“One way I got through the worst of the sickness was to keep a scan of my unborn son beside me as inspiration to get through the nausea. I kept reminding myself that I had to take care of myself and the baby.

“I feel sorry for the Duchess of Cambridge because you can end up missing out on important things like taking your child to school on his first day. It’s a debilitating illness and I have such sympathy for Catherine.

“I think it must be hard for Prince William too not knowing what to do to help his wife feel less unwell. I hope she has people counselling her through this.

“The best therapy for me was being able to reach out to other mums online and share thoughts and feelings so that you know you are not alone - there are other women battling the same thing.”

- You can find the Hyperemesis Gravidarum Northern Ireland Support Group on Facebook.