Kate Middleton can add another kind of one percenter status to her credits, as the newly gestating royal has been hospitalized with a pregnancy-related condition that affects only 1% of mothers — hyperemesis gravidarum, AKA, Extreme Barf City: Pregnant Edition.
It's helpful to keep in mind that pregnancy is an unpredictable magical mystery tour of human triumph and limitation. For every marvel at the female body's capacity for reproduction, there is an equally aw-man hassle. Among its many gifts is the joy of morning sickness, which is basically what happens when your pregnant body is caught in the Machiavellian grip of a pod person slowly draining the life juice out of you, reducing you to a weakened, compliant host.
Just joshin', we "think" it's basically a reaction to quickly changing hormones and a defense against potential toxins to protect the fetus. But like everything witchy and womanly, no one knows for sure, a.k.a., "Is that really his baby?"
Your greater sensitivity to foods and smells and quicker gag reflex during this time are thought to all be measures to keep you from consuming things that will harm your unborn wunderkind, and also make you not gain too much weight up front so you're still at least sort of attractive to your mate and they won't jet (OK, I made the last part up). It's also usually considered nothing more than a minor inconvenience, one of many physical hardships endured for the sake of continuing the species, a punch line in a rom-com, a grin-and-bear-it difficulty on the road to your bundle of joy.
But as with every possible ailment during gestation, there's the no-big-deal-version, the kinda-shitty one and the holy-fuck-your-actual-life-could-be-in-danger. So it is with morning sickness, which should actually be called Anytime Sickness, or, you know, Sickness. You could puke a little the first few weeks or not at all, merely find the smell of chicken to be a form of olfactory torture, or hang out on the edge of purging the entire nine months.
Still, none of the above holds a barf-scented candle to the far end of the spectrum: hyperemesis gravidarum, or extreme vomiting that can lead to dehydration, rapid weight loss (5% or more of your body weight) and more importantly, loss of vital nutrients for the developing fetus.
No one knows how pregnancy will hit them, but most women can rightly assume they'll be well enough to shop for cute, A-line dresses and Instagram their changing body. For those that aren't, it's an awful reminder of the power pregnancy has over your body, and how powerless you are to dictate the experience.
Hey, sorta related: Didn't Mia Farrow finally start gaining weight in Rosemary's Baby after she ate a raw steak or promised her baby to Satan or whatever?
Ol' H.G. is yet another female-related conundrum that lacks proper research, but what study has been done seems to show some genuine concerns about its effects. According to a UCLA report, offspring of mothers suffering from H.G. were 3.6 times more likely to experience depression and anxiety in adulthood. Not exactly cause for celebration, but this wouldn't be the first moody, bummed-out royal, amirite? The study also found that the condition may run in families, and it is most definitely, a big, giant, horrible drag.
But perhaps of greater interest to the voyeuristic followers of royal baby news and the people who love them was the study that found that 56% of mothers who were hospitalized during early pregnancy with hyperemesis gravidarum gave birth to…drum roll…girls. So proves the witchy, vexing power of women, even the littlest women, who have the power to control their mother's lives, fates and weight gain in utero beyond our wildest comprehension. That thar baby is already a tempest in a teacup.
Anyhoo, in "extreme" cases of extreme morning sickness, women have even been understandably motivated to terminate the pregnancy, such as in this story of a British woman who vomited up to 40 times a day with her first pregnancy and elected not to continue the second when she experience the same symptoms.
In news that will shock no one, researchers also found that some doctors tend to trivialize the issue of extreme morning sickness, since women are notorious baby-making complainers who can barely endure the aches and pains of living, much less be trusted with self-reporting on the official pain scale.
As for Kate Middleton, mad sympathy. Here's hoping she can get the rest, fluids and nutrients needed, and that the situation will resolve any day now, as she is reportedly about 12 weeks along, a time when the condition has been known to improve as mysteriously as it worsens. Because otherwise, imagine your worst vomity episode, and multiply that by three months or more? No ginger tea or DVD box sets of Rhoda gonna help that.
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles. Three years post-pregnancy, she can finally eat chicken again.