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Princess Kate’s morning sickness brutal but not dangerous

Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, with their children, Prince George, left, and Princess Charlotte, in July. | AP

LONDON — Prince William and his wife Princess Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting their third child, and, as with her previous two pregnancies, the former Kate Middleton is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum — severe morning sickness.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is estimated to affect about one to three percent of pregnant women and can result in nausea and vomiting so acute that hospitalization is required. It’s thought to be caused by pregnancy hormones, but doctors aren’t sure why some women experience worse symptoms than others.

The condition usually begins in the early weeks of pregnancy and, in many cases, subsides by about 20 weeks. For some women, though, the effects persist until the baby is born.

The condition can be “absolutely devastating,” said Dr. Roger Gadsby of Warwick University, who has studied the issue for decades. “Your life is on hold while the symptoms are present.”

Gadsby said some pregnant women vomit dozens of times a day and end up restricted to bed rest.

Kensington Palace made the pregnancy announcement Monday, saying the duchess wasn’t feeling well enough to attend an official engagement later in the day.

Kate is being cared for at her Kensington Palace home in London. There was no word of when the baby is due.

She and Prince William already have two children: Prince George, 4 and Princess Charlotte, 2.

In 2012, Kate was hospitalized for several days when she was believed to be suffering from dehydration.

There is no evidence that the nausea and vomiting from severe morning sickness will affect the baby’s future health. Women with the condition actually have a slightly lower risk of miscarriage, according to Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

In severe cases, babies can be born with lower than expected birthweight.

Women with the condition are advised to eat small meals often, to avoid foods or smells that trigger symptoms and to consult their doctor or midwife if symptoms don’t subside.

If treatment requires hospitalization, women are typically given vitamins, steroids and anti-nausea drugs intravenously. Patients sometimes also are treated with shots of heparin to thin their blood. Pregnant women are at increased risk of developing blood clots in their legs, and being dehydrated elevates the risk.

Gadsby said he would expect doctors to be able to treat the duchess at Kensington Palace and that there shouldn’t be any lasting effects. She would likely have to cut back on her royal schedule, though.

“As long as the mom receives adequate treatment, the mom is usually fine and the baby is fine,” he said.