Like Pregnant Kate Middleton, I Had Hyperemesis — And I Considered Abortion Because Of It

Kate Middleton PregnantHearing news that Kate Middleton was pregnant should have brought me to my fairy tale knees. I loved Princess Diana. I am slightly obsessed with the monarchy (though mostly it’s all about Prince Harry). Except when I heard about the princess’s pregnancy—via text message from my sister-in-law, “Just heard Kate Middleton is pregnant and in hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum. You and the future Queen of England have something in common”—I wanted to weep for her.

I know hyperemesis well. By the time I was seven weeks pregnant with my daughter, Elke (now 3 ½), debilitating nausea took over. I could hardly care for my son who was five at the time, let alone take care of myself. My diet consisted of Cheerios and crackers. Maybe a half a pickle. The most I could do was dry heave over a toilet all day. (Would it have been better if I actually puked? Some short relief?)

By eight weeks, my midwife prescribed Regalan, an anti-nausea drug, but after a few days addled in a fetal position and moaning on my bathroom floor, I was admitted to the hospital for dehydration. My midwife (who also suffered from hyperemesis with both of her kids), a team of high-risk pregnancy doctors and the hospital nurses took turns pumping me with fluids and Zofran (another anti-nausea medication typically reserved for cancer patients). They promised me the baby would be fine. They understood that I needed to curl up in a dark room. Shades drawn. Door shut.

I no longer cared about the baby. I wanted to get home to my son. My husband. My life without constant dry-heaving. And like 10 percent of hyperemesis patients—according to the hyperemesis non-profit group, Her Foundation—I wanted to end my pregnancy.

At home, I was attached to an IV and a Zofran pump. My best friend dubbed the pump “the cutest purse ever.” Lying was my best friend’s job. In reality, my purse carried a pump attached to a syringe filled with Zofran. I had to stick the needle in the thick area around my belly button or the fatty part of my thigh.

“What fatty part?” I’d ask the on-site nurse who checked in with me once a day via phone. My stomach was a hallowed cavern. Fatty parts were shriveled.

Two weeks later I was back in the hospital. My typically small frame had shrunk down to 114 pounds. I contemplated an abortion.

“Why do we need to live this way?” I said to my husband. Because before all of this, I wanted a baby so badly. My womb had ached for a babe. Yet, by 10 weeks, I was miserable.

But there’s a moment in everyone’s life where you make a decision that can’t be undone. Mine was when I told my son about the pregnancy. He had begged us for a sibling. Though my own body desperately wanted a baby with my husband, this pregnancy was a gift to my son. He didn’t want to grow up an only child. (Ask him now, and he might sing a different tune. Someone doesn’t like to share the TV, if you know what I mean.)

Sometimes the Zofran worked. Sometimes ginger and acupuncture worked. But mostly, the nausea lasted until my fifth month. It gave me a one-month break (lovely!) and then came back with a touch of vertigo. A nausea and vertigo cupcake, you could call it. I was a mess. Then my beautiful daughter was born. And though the nausea was gone, I was a mess all over again.

Three and a half years later, memories of the hyperemesis monster still rears its pukey head. Any bout of food poisoning or stomach bug and I start to cry hysterically, convinced that I’m pregnant. So I rest my head on the side of the cold toilet thinking that at least my stomach bug comes with a one-day life span. And that with my Mirena safely in place, my pregnancy days are over.


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  • radicalhw

    Whoa! I had no idea. I had been tempted to make jokes (colored by jealousy of course) about Kate’s ridiculously skinny bod, but now I won’t. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Hayley Krischer

      Since the ridiculously skinny bod came before the hyperemesis, I can only imagine she looks frighteningly skeletal now. :(

  • SW

    Totally right there with you. Hypermesis is no joke – people like to make a lot of “it will be so easy to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight!” – guys, no, that’s not even anywhere near a concern right now. I’ve been sick for months at a time, I’m barely functional. I want this baby to be healthy. This is a hard, bad time. Lots of love to every lady who has ever been through this.

    • Hayley Krischer

      Hang in there. Remind yourself that you won’t be pregnant forever and that at least the end of this sickness will come once your baby is born. Big hugs.

  • Mom at home.

    I had hyperemesis not once, but three times. (Yes I am a glutton for punishment it seems.) The third surprise pregnancy we had very poor insurance that wouldn’t cover the drugs I needed so badly and they (at the time) were hundreds of dollars a week I would have gladly paid if I had it. I suffered at home and lost 40 pounds, being admitted three times. Finally at 110 pounds and nearly four months pregnant my insurance agreed to cover TPN and home IV’s along with the drugs. By that time the dr’s said my organs were eating themselves and I was waking up at night dreaming of water (because I was THAT dehydrated) My bouts with hyperemesis detroyed my teeth (months of vomiting stomach acid) and I Am not unconvinced the last one did not lead to my heart problems. I blame no one who would decide it was all just to much.

  • nikB

    I too had HG. I was in law school and was stressed beyond imagination. I was attached to an IV that I had to carry around 24/7 for 8 weeks. None of the anti-nausea meds worked. There was not a single day during my pregnancy that I did not at least dry-heave. I was finally able to eat some around 5 months, but I wasn’t able to eat much because of the nausea. In addition I had severe taste changes so when I was feeling up to trying to eat, it had to be something sweet. Otherwise, I couldn’t stand the taste. I lost 25 pounds and didn’t gain any back during the pregnancy. My daughter was beautiful and healthy and perfect despite the lack of food and prenatal vitamins (couldn’t keep those down either). I really feel for the Princess. Hopefully she feels better soon.

  • lisacng @

    Thanks for sharing your story! I had no idea this “extreme morning sickness” existed!

    • Hayley Krischer

      I’d never ever wish this upon someone, but Kate Middleton coming clean about it so early on really has opened the door to hyperemesis. So many people suffer, clearly. I can’t believe how many others are coming out with their story.

  • Sara

    Wow, I didn’t even know about this illness until now. I can’t even imagine–I was lucky enough to have a very easy pregnancy and while I was already grateful, I’m really counting my blessings now. What an awful thing to go through.

  • rebeccavm

    Your daughter is lucky that you let her live.

    • kittycru

      Untreated hyperemesis can result in maternal and therefore fetal death. If Mummy dies then baby does too. It is not a question of morality at this point, it is a severely distressing and debilitating condition and most women who have had hyperemesis have considered abortion in order to ease extreme suffering. They then feel deep sadness and guilt and do not need judgement. They need efficient medical care and sensitive loving care too.

    • Kite

      In retrospect, now that she is a person. But if this suffering woman had exercised her right over her own body to have an abortion, then there wouldn’t have been a daughter to feel unlucky – your premise is faulty.

  • Emma.

    I’m a HG survivor too. Thank you for this article and all my best to Kate and other women going through this hell right now. It’s often poorly treated/managed, and very poorly understood, and the impact is so huge… So huge that I can’t really imagine ever being pregnant again,

  • Samantha S

    I was lucky to have mine caught early (thanks, SCH), to have the generic Zofran covered, and to have the pill alone work. I hope the media coverage will mean more women can get help and not have to suffer.

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  • KU

    I also had HG! Just like Hayley, I too was wishing I was no longer pregnant at one point. I had to leave my job, couldn’t stand light, noise, smells or any kind of movement! After loosing 11 lbs. in the 1st month, throwing up 15-20 times a day and in so much pain all over my body, I just wanted it to all end! I couldn’t even cry I was so dehydrated. I was hospitalized 9 times within 4 months. Mine lasted from Jan. and finally subsided around June. I’m still traumatized over the entire experience to this day and that was 7 year ago. The only way I could explain it to any of my friends was like having the worst case of Food Poisoning ever and times that by 10 on top of excruciating pain all over your body/ Weakness, pale, frail, sunken in cheek bones and ribs showing and not evening looking like your preggo! I seriously just wanted to die! After living through that hell, I knew I could never mentally and physically go through that again. My son is 7 years old and I thank God he stuck it out with me while I was preggo, he’s the best thing that ever happened to me!

  • Ldh

    I landed here because I’m not sure which direction to go. I have a beautiful 3 year old son, and I tried extremely hard to get pregnant again (for 2.5 years). But if you had told me this is where I would be, I would have gratefully lived my life with my little man and my adoring husband, to never wont for more. But here I am, less that 8 weeks pregnant (according to the u/s), and I’ve been debilitatingly sick for almost 3 weeks now. I can’t enjoy my son. I have no life. This is no standard of living. I feel so ungrateful, which makes me feel like a terrible person. I feel guilty and stressed, overwhelmed and completely spent. I was sick with my son from 7 weeks to 37 weeks, but it was NOTHING like this. I’ve been to the hospital once, and Zofran does nothing but frustrate me. I’m on 4 diclectin a day. I no longer care what I try to take the nausea away, my disregard for this baby is borderline alarming. So I wonder if its worth it and who I am hurting more. This is the last place I thought I’d be. I am so desperate for direction. Why?

    • ShannC

      You must be close to the end by now, if you continued with the pregnancy. I hope you found some relief :(

  • ShannC

    Just FYI, since you were wondering, actually vomiting doesn’t bring any relief. Unfortunately, it’s not like the typical stomach flu, in which emptying your stomach brings a few minutes or more of relief. Vomiting during HG never brought even a second of decreased nausea…. just more vomiting. So many times, over a toilet, bucket, or the bathtub (when it was projectile. eww.) I though I was going to choke and die on my own vomit, because the heaving was so constant that I couldn’t get any air and the room would get dark and blurry. And I was okay with that, because death was likely better than what I was going through.
    I did my share of dry heaving, too. Most of the time there wasn’t anything to come up, but it didn’t stop my body from trying, constantly. I would beg God to either give me a miscarriage or just let me die. I know that’s horrible, and most people would never understand that, and trust me, I felt guilty even while praying for it and continued to feel guilty for over a year after birth, but life seems like a dark and hopeless hell during that time.
    I totally understand what you went through, and though I am, and have always been, pro-life, I, too, wanted to end the pregnancy, no matter the cost. To all of you mamas who ever suffered like this and either wanted to terminate, or did terminate, just know that it’s okay that you were “selfish” in this situation (as other people might view it). It’s okay if you couldn’t find the strength to feel happiness that you were carrying a child. It’s okay if you hated the pregnancy, or maybe even the baby itself. A year and a half after giving birth, I have finally come to realize that all of the feelings, the depression, even the suicidal thoughts I had during that period were NOT MY FAULT. I was in a place so dark, so isolated, so full of grief and suffering that I didn’t even know it existed, and I couldn’t imagine a day that would be different. This, during what should have been one of the happiest times of my life, full of joyful expectation. So, mamas, a big hug to you all. And know that others who have gone through HG will not judge you or pity you for either your thoughts or your actions during that time.