The Duchess of Cambridge struggled with hyperemesis gravidarum aka extreme sickness during all three of her pregnancies with Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. Duchess Kate was even admitted to hospital for treatment when she was carrying her first child, Prince George. Alex Bundy, 29, from Bristol experienced the same thing with her two pregnancies and here she tells HELLO! what life with hyperemesis gravidarum is really like…
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How would you describe hyperemesis gravidarum?
Hyperemesis gravidarum is basically severe sickness during pregnancy. It isn’t just morning sickness, which is what most people associate it with, it’s sickness/nausea that lasts all day (in my case anyway). It mostly affects women in the first trimester but for some it can go on into the second and some very unfortunate ladies that I’ve spoken to have had it into the third!
What did a typical day with hyperemesis gravidarum look like?
I’m not going to sugar coat it, it was miserable. I’d wake up and be sick almost as soon as I came around, so I’d always have a bowl next to me in bed. I’d then feel a slight relief from that and manage to eat some toast or a plain biscuit, but I knew it would only come back up within the hour! I felt the only relief from the nausea was to sleep so I would usually sleep on and off all day.
Alex lost a stone in weight when she was pregnant
I was very fortunate to have had a supportive partner and my amazing mum around me to help. I have no idea how I would have coped otherwise. I had to have six weeks off from work as even just getting up and walking was hard, it was almost like I was experiencing motion sickness when up and about. I would throw up almost straight away once I sat up in bed. This lasted from around 6-15 weeks.
Did you experience hyperemesis gravidarum with both pregnancies?
Yes, I thought I had avoided it with my second as it started a little later at eight weeks but wow, it hit me hard. I think having my two-year-old daughter around made it even harder as I wasn’t able to just lay in bed all day like I did the first time. Although I had fantastic support, I still had that responsibility of making sure she was OK and also not to worry her too much seeing her mummy in bed poorly all of the time, but it was very hard. I almost wanted to be in hospital the second time around so that she couldn’t see me like it.
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Alex's had to take six weeks off work
How did your partner/family help when you were experiencing symptoms?
They were incredible. I couldn’t have managed without them. Even the most basic of tasks was so hard for me like just getting up to make a drink, the minute I'd stand up I'd almost projectile vomit it was constant so to have support around me from my partner and mum was paramount. They would make sure I was eating or at least trying, waking me up to remind me to take my anti-sickness tablets. I needed them so much when I was experiencing HG, especially the second time around helping with my daughter.
Was there anything that helped ease your symptoms?
I wish I could say yes but not really, the only thing that helped was when I would be put on IV fluids and anti-sickness meds in hospital. I’d then get my appetite back which was amazing and feel more positive about everything. I was able to look forward and start to think about things I’d like to buy for the baby as that’s another thing that takes a back seat - you’re so low when you have HG that you just can’t focus on anything else and it’s difficult to see an end to it.
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Did you require hospital treatment like Kate Middleton did? If so, what was it like?
Yes, with my first I was admitted seven times and with my second it was nine times. I would like to be more positive about my experiences at hospital, but I just feel that I was told so often by the staff 'it won’t last forever, it’ll soon pass' or 'it'll all be worth it in the end' - all of which at the time was super unhelpful. Each time when I was admitted I would be assessed first in a little room, urine tested, blood pressure monitored, bloods taken and then made to wait sometimes up to two and a half hours before they would put me on a ward in a bed then to wait even longer before a nurse would come to give any treatment.
The Duchess experienced it with all three pregnancies
I definitely feel the attitude in the hospitals is that because it’s just due to pregnancy, we all know it's going to pass after time and it's not something that's going to be long term so there doesn’t need to be a huge amount of research to enable to help women cope and get on with day-to-day life.
But it is so debilitating, I lost over a stone in weight both times which they say doesn’t affect the baby, but it does affect the mother. You feel totally weak, and I do think that there needs to be more research into it rather than just throwing countless anti-sickness tablets at women suffering from it. None of them worked for me unless it was intravenous and eventually they put me on steroids which was at around 13 weeks with my second.
What's your advice for other expectant mums suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum?
My advice would be to stick to your guns and be strong when it comes to dealing with the medical professionals, I felt that I was being pushed from pillar to post to get admitted to hospital, but once you are admitted the first time, they usually have you back really quickly but that first step is hard, I was sent to the GPs to try anti-sickness injections and different types of tablets, I tried acupuncture which is supposed to help.
I'd also say to reach out to support groups with other women who are suffering from HG or who have done and they will be able to reassure you and help put your mind at ease because it's a really dark time, I hate to say this now but at some points I even questioned if I really wanted to continue being pregnant. That's how awful it makes you feel.
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Alex with her two beautiful children
Anything else you want to say about your hyperemesis gravidarum experience?
I want to finish my story on a more positive note, although my experience of hyperemesis was extreme and it has really affected me I would hand on heart say that it was worth every struggle I experienced. I have two beautiful, healthy children and I wouldn't change it for the world. Of course, I wish I hadn't been so poorly and been able to enjoy being pregnant but all of that is now a distant memory for me. I just hope that in the future, women that are suffering with HG are able to get more support and not just brushed off.
If you are suffering from symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum, check out the NHS website, visit this support group and see your GP for advice.
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