Duchess of Cambridge's illness could save lives, author says

Ashli McCall File Photo CNA CNA US Catholic News 12 4 12 Author Ashli McCall. File Photo-CNA.

The Duchess of Cambridge's stay in the hospital for severe morning sickness could help other women avoid aborting their children, according to author Ashli McCall, who has experience with the condition.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, a representative for the Royal Family confirmed the pregnancy of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but also said that Kate Middleton has been hospitalized with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

The illness, which is a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, affects less than two percent of pregnancies and is often under-diagnosed, causing some women to abort their children.

"While it isn't Kate's responsibility to become the international spokesperson for HG awareness, it could be her gift," said Ashli McCall, an author and Hyperemesis Gravidarum sufferer.

McCall, who is a home-schooling mother and cancer survivor, said that her bout with the illness during her four pregnancies was the "most atrocious physical ailment" she has ever experienced.

She described the illness as "hell on earth that others simply cannot imagine unless they themselves have been where Kate Middleton and so many of us have been."

Depending on the severity of the illness, women may suffer from frequent vomiting, a 10 percent loss of body weight, dehydration and even hallucinations, all of which can put the health of mother and child at risk.

During her first pregnancy, McCall knew something was wrong when she suffered from constant nausea and vomiting.

Her doctor failed to properly treat the illness, assuming it was just morning sickness. Four months into her pregnancy, McCall had lost 14 percent of her body weight, could not eat or drink and was experiencing hallucinations.

Doctors were skeptical of her illness and said she must be suffering so much because the child was unplanned and that she made up the illness in her mind.

"There is very little sympathy for this disease, because too many people truly believe it to be normal morning sickness," she said.

Although her fourth pregnancy was the worst case of the illness her doctor had ever seen, it was her first pregnancy that "ended very regretfully in abortion."

 While family and friends were supportive of her during cancer recovery, McCall said that during her first pregnancy "the people in my life did not understand what was happening to me."

Her experience "triggered a desperate search for information," but she was surprised to find no body of research compiled on the disease.

Determined to help other women and children avoid her experience, McCall researched and wrote the "first and currently only comprehensive guide" to the illness for patients and family members, "Beyond Morning Sickness: Battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum."

"If I had possessed such information in my first pregnancy it would not have ended the way it did," she said.

Aside from the physical anguish women can experience with this illness, there is also a "negative and crippling social aspect" that is "often ignored."

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"Not only was I sick with the most bewildering and horrible illness I had ever had in my life, I was also victimized by unfounded prejudice, and on occasion harmful comments," she said.

McCall has authored a children's book, "Mama Has Hyperemesis Gravidarum (But Only For A While)." Another book, "The Chronicles of Nausea," is currently in the works and will be released in Jan. 2013. All proceeds of her books go to helping others suffering from the illness.

Thanks to her personal research and the publication of her book, McCall has been able to connect with other women who have battled similar cases as hers.

"The feedback I received was phenomenal, and I have the priceless gift of having been in the delivery room watching children who were scheduled to be aborted be born instead," she said.

McCall said she hopes that good may come out of Kate Middleton's illness as well, by raising awareness about Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

"For a person of her visibility to point others to her own personal story and to helpful resources would save countless lives."

Had she known about the proper treatment for the illness, McCall and her first child could have been spared the tragedy of an abortion.

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"If people could get the care they needed," she said, "more mothers and children would be spared the pain of exacerbated suffering and unwanted abortion," she said.

While every pregnancy is different, McCall said, women who have experienced the illness on one occasion seem to be more susceptible for it reappearing.

"This could be bad news for Kate Middleton," McCall said. "Hopefully, she will be one of the lucky ones and have normal future pregnancies."

For more information about Hyperemesis Gravidarum, please visit beyondmorningsickness.com and helpher.org.

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