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There’s a royal pregnancy, with royal pains.

photo: tsaiproject via Flickr

In case you’ve been living under a rock, I have some big news to share from across the pond.

Yes, I’m talking about the long awaited announcement that Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting their first child … or children?

Possibly overshadowing the royal pregnancy itself is the state in which the Duchess finds herself. Her hospitalization for what press outlets are calling “severe morning sickness” has brought on a whole slew of rumors.

Is she expecting twins? Does this mean there are complications with the pregnancy? Is her health in jeopardy?

When a woman’s lady business starts making headlines, it’s time to bring in the experts. Once again, I turned to Carrie Ann Terrell, M.D., director of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School and the director at Women’s Health Specialists Clinic.

Health Talk: Dr. Terrell, what is morning sickness, why does it happen?

Carrie Ann Terrell: “Morning Sickness” is a term to identify the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. We don’t know exactly why it happens. Our best evidence tells us it is worse with high levels of the pregnancy hormone called Beta-HCG. These levels are highest in early pregnancy, with multiple gestations and with some abnormal pregnancies such as ‘molar’ pregnancies. Severe nausea and vomiting that results in 5% loss of body weight and measurable dehydration is called Hyperemesis Gravidaruum.

HT: Why do some women suffer from it while others don’t?

CT: We don’t know the answer to this. We also see it vary from pregnancy to pregnancy within the same woman. One time she may be symptomatic and then in the next pregnancy she is fine.

HT: Is it common to see a woman hospitalized for morning sickness?

CT: This is rare and is usually done when there is acute dehydration or malnourishment requiring intervention.

HT: There is a rumor that Kate’s severe morning sickness is tied to her carrying twins. Is that at all connected? Likely?

CT: It is one possible explanation. But Hyperemesis Gravidaruum can occur with single pregnancies.

HT: Not all women can go to the hospital with morning sickness. Is there anything women can do at home to feel better? What are treatment options?

CT: For minimal to moderate symptoms we commonly recommend frequent small meals of whatever foods sound appetizing, water, candied ginger or ginger tea, acupuncture or acupressure, over the counter ‘Unisom’ and vitamin B6 25 mg orally 4 times a day.

HT: Anything else you think Health Talk readers should know?

CT: Generally the symptoms improve by 17 weeks gestation. There’s light at the end of the tunnel Kate!

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