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How to Alleviate the Royal Pain of Morning Sickness

Britain’s Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, poses for pictures with his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, as they leave King Edward VII Hospital in central London.

When news broke of the impending royal birth, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — more commonly known as William and Kate — weren’t picking out nursery colors for Kensington Palace or sitting down for their first interview as parents-to-be. They were at King Henry the VII Hospital in central London, where Kate was being treated for hyperemesis gravidarum, or acute morning sickness.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a condition in which a pregnant woman will experience severe nausea, vomiting and dehydration. According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 60,000 women suffer from the it every year.

To learn more about hyperemesis gravidarum and how it differs from regular morning sickness, NewsHour talked to Dr. Angela Chaudhari, obstetrics and gynecology physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and Kate Hogan, a licensed midwife at Twin Cities Midwifery in Minneapolis.

What is morning sickness? What exactly is happening inside the body?

The condition is caused by high levels of the hCG hormone, which is produced during pregnancy and often causes nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, according to Dr. Chaudhari. About 70 to 80 percent of pregnant women will experience symptoms in the course of their pregnancy.

Why? It could be evolutionary, said Hogan. “It’s a way for moms not to eat anything that is more likely to carry food borne illnesses such as vegetables and meat. Expectant moms want grains and carbohydrates to soothe their stomach. Morning sickness can be exacerbated when mothers don’t eat enough during their pregnancy,” she said. “Eating a small meal or snack every hour and a half to two hours can help stave off nausea.”

What is Hyperemesis gravidarum, or acute morning sickness?

The duchess’ experience has sparked worldwide questions about the condition. What distinguishes it?

“Mothers with acute morning sickness can’t keep anything down,” Hogan said. “Most women dealing with morning sickness only vomit one to two times per day in the early parts of their pregnancy.”

The condition is different than regular morning sickness because it requires hospitalization so that the mother can receive fluids and anti-nausea medication, said Dr. Chaudhari. “It’s much rarer than regular morning sickness, but there are always usually at least one or two women in my hospital that are suffering from it.”

Is morning sickness an indicator of anything else?

Although both Hogan and Dr. Chaudhari say nothing scientific has been proven, the higher levels of hCG often show that a pregnancy is still viable, or more likely to carry to term.

Are there things women can do to help general morning sickness?

  • Eat lots of small meals throughout the day. “Eating protein with every snack or meal will digest more over a long period of time,” says Hogan.

  • Dr. Chaudhari says bumping up vitamin intake, such as vitamin B6

  • For an at-home remedy, Hogan offers peppermint, acupuncture and pressure point wristbands as a way to reduce nausea

  • Both Dr. Chaudhari and Hogan agree that reducing stress, adjusting your lifestyle to prepare for the impending birth and getting plenty of rest (like taking naps) will help with morning sickness symptoms.

What happened to Kate?

The duchess left the hospital early Thursday morning after spending three days under close doctor care. If all goes well in the months ahead, her baby will be the first heir to the British throne born in 30 years.

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