Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) is very common, affecting 80% of women. It also goes by the misnomer “morning sickness” - it can happen at any time of the day, or night. For some women NVP can be mild and more of a nuisance, but for others it can end up being severely debilitating resulting in prolonged hospitalization. While we do not know exactly what causes NVP, it likely relates to a sensitivity to the placental hormone hCG, but other hormones have been suggested. It is more common with twins but can certainly occur with only one fetus. For most women affected by NVP, it is relatively self-limiting, usually resolving by early in the 2nd trimester. However, up until that happens it can be miserable.
NVP has made the headlines in the last couple of days because Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, has been hospitalized with a severe form of NVP called Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which affects about 1% of all women. This condition often requires prolonged hospitalization, IV hydration and medication and sometimes, if it is very prolonged, nutritional support.
There are many fallacies about NVP. Some media articles have suggested that it is evidence of Kate rejecting her fetus (NOT true), or that it is a marker of a healthy pregnancy (NOT true…she might have a health pregnancy but having NVP doesn’t tell us that. In fact, women who have a molar pregnancy where there is no fetus but have a placenta that has gone wrong can have severe NVP). Some have even hinted that she is somehow faking it, which - considering the level of media attention her hospital visit has caused - is doubtful. NVP is a common condition that women often suffer through quietly. There are safe options available to treat NVP, but they tend to work better if started before the signs and symptoms get to the severe stage. If you or someone you know is affected by any degree of NVP, contact your health care provider to talk about what treatment options might be appropriate. Read our section on nausea and vomiting during pregnancy for more information on medical and non-medical ways to deal with NVP.