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Like the British princess, Ashli McCall has suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy, and she says proper treatment can prevent abortions.
BY HILLARY SENOUR/CNA/EWTN
DENVER — 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 experienced the condition.
In a Dec. 3 announcement, a representative for the British royal family confirmed the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge, but also said that the princess has been hospitalized with hyperemesis gravidarum.
The illness, which is a severe form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, affects less than 2% of pregnancies and is often underdiagnosed, causing some women to abort their children.
Ashli McCall, an author and hyperemesis gravidarum sufferer, suggested that the duchess’ illness might serve to draw much-needed public attention to this serious illness.
McCall, who is a home-schooling mother and cancer survivor, said that her bouts with the illness during her four pregnancies were 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, the loss of more than 10% of their body weight, dehydration and even hallucinations, all of which can put the health of the 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% 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.”
“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 January. 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 Princess Kate’s illness, as well, by raising awareness about hyperemesis gravidarum.
Had she known about the proper treatment for the illness, McCall and her first child could have been spared the tragedy of an abortion.
“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, visit BeyondMorningSickness.com and HelpHer.org.