Niamh O’Connell knows only too well what the Duchess of Cambridge is going through right now because when she became pregnant with her daughter Kayla (now 16 months), she spent the following nine months struggling to eat or drink anything without vomiting and even ended up in casualty with a ruptured stomach.
Like Kate Middleton, the 35-year-old suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe morning sickness, which started when she was eight weeks pregnant and continued right up to the birth of her baby.
“I began to feel nauseous when I was about seven weeks pregnant and a week later started vomiting a lot,” she recalls. “As it was my first baby, I presumed this was what morning sickness was all about and tried to get on with it as best I could. But as time went on I got progressively worse. I was vomiting up to 15 times a day and the effect of the retching felt like there was a sharp blade going from my stomach all the way up to my throat. By the time I had reached 11 weeks, I felt so sick that I couldn’t even stand up.
“I had lost lots of weight and began to get really worried for the health of my baby as I wasn’t able to keep anything down. The only things I could stomach were ice-lollies, crackers and dry toast and even that wouldn’t last long. My husband, Gary, was also very concerned.” and insisted I went to the doctor who diagnosed me with hypermesis.”
The mother-to-be was advised to get as much rest as possible but the severity of her sickness continued until she was so violently ill that she began vomiting blood and was rushed to a hospital emergency departmentA&E.
“One weekend when I was around 20 weeks pregnant, I was particularly sick and was vomiting constantly throughout the day. Eventually, I brought up a lot of blood clots which were the size of two-euro coins. I was really panicked then and shouted for Gary who rushed me to the maternity hospital.
“But here my story differed greatly from Kate Middleton’s because no-one at the hospital seemed particularly worried while I waited for about two hours before being handed two prescriptions, one to ease the nausea, the other to help repair the lining of my stomach — which was ruptured as a result of all the vomiting.
“I wasn’t examined and no questions were asked. I queried the safety of taking drugs while pregnant and was told the baby would be fine. I wasn’t happy about taking medication but I didn’t want the staff to think I was causing a fuss. So, I took the prescribed drugs for a few weeks and then decided to stop them and carry on the way I had before.”
By this point in Niamh’s pregnancy, the sickness had abated somewhat and she was only throwing up a couple of times a day. For most of us, this would be traumatic in itself, but for the advertising executive, it was a welcome break from the relentless retching she had suffered for months.
“When I got to about six or seven months, the vomiting bouts became much less frequent — only about three or four times daily – I was so relieved,” she says.
“I had continued working as much as I could throughout the pregnancy but it had been extremely difficult and I was forced to take time off during the really bad stretch, so it was good to feel a little bit normal again. But, unfortunately, this was only a lull and as I went into the final six weeks of my pregnancy, the vomiting returned with a vengeance.
and my insides were in pieces again.
“By the time my due date arrived, I was convinced that I had something seriously wrong with me. I voiced my concerns at the hospital again, but there seemed to be no protocol in place for patients with my condition.
“I now know that I should have been on a drip to help me to re-hydrate as there were no fluids or nutrients going into my body, but this was never even mentioned. I was told that the baby would not be affected by the sickness and would take all the nutrition she needed from my body, which in effect, was leaving me with nothing at all.
“I don’t feel that I got enough help or support during what was an extremely difficult time for me. and I wonder if I would I have had more attention if I had gone privately – who knows “I knew very little about hyperemesis before becoming pregnant with Kayla and was so ill and exhausted that I didn’t push for treatment in the hospital.
“I am now 18 weeks pregnant with my second child and while the hyperemesis was severe in the early stages, it subsided at about 16 weeks but I continue to vomit a few times a day.
“However, if it does get to the stage it was before, I will make sure I get looked after properly. Anyone who has been through this will know that it is an horrendous condition which can have really serious consequences.
“I would advise any woman suffering from the condition to make sure they get the treatment they need and to bring someone with them to the hospital if they don’t feel up to arguing their own case.
“I went through a dreadful ordeal throughout my first pregnancy but the moment Kayla was born, the sickness stopped and before long I was sitting up in bed enjoying tea and toast. The care I got during the labour and hospital care was terrific.
“I am almost halfway though my second pregnancy and haven’t had the same level of sickness as before., but if it happens, I now know what to do about it.”
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