With the news of British Princess Catherine’s pregnancy recently, Cindy MacDougall’s ears perked up. MacDougall had suffered from the same condition, hyperemesis gravidarum, that put the Duchess of Cambridge in the hospital.
The serious illness plagues affected pregnant women with repeated, extreme vomiting, leaving them dehydrated and malnourished.
MacDougall’s harrowing third pregnancy led her to the Hyperemesis Education and Research organization (HelpHer.org). She became a volunteer, advising other impacted women and their families, largely through an online forum she moderates for women with the illness, as well as one-on-one counseling. The organization gives out information for physicians and other health personnel, who may initially equate the condition with normal morning sickness.
MacDougall is pleased that the duchess’ experience has generated lots of useful information about the illness, leading many women to the organization seeking help. For a few weeks after the story broke, she put in a lot of extra time moderating her forum and supporting stricken women.
For her, as for most afflicted women, the illness strikes and peaks early, but it can often extend into the second trimester. She was hospitalized in order to have intravenous treatments for food and liquids, as well as doses of several anti-vomiting medications.
During her own pregnancies when she experienced such suffering, MacDougall prayed first to Mary, and then to St. Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian pediatrician who died in 1962 shortly after giving birth and after refusing an abortion. She also prayed to her unborn daughter’s guardian angel to protect the child and herself.
Her husband, Clayton, suffered too at seeing his wife’s suffering. "It’s really miserable. Guys are supposed to fix things," he told the Register. He prayed to St. Joseph, too.
Having been helped by the hyperemesis center, MacDougall is glad to give back. It’s just another way she is being pro-life. The family, who live on Vancouver Island, witnesses to the truth that each child is a gift from God not only for them, but for the world. MacDougall writes a parenting column in their local newspaper called "And Baby Makes Six."
The dehydration and malnourishment that extreme vomiting cause can in turn cause impaired thinking, leading some women to contemplate suicide or abortion.
MacDougall is pleased to be part of Hyperemesis Education and Research, because it helps pregnant women who are suffering get the proper care — early diagnosis and treatment, as well as counseling — to ensure the well-being of mother and child.
Says MacDougall: "I know I have had a role in saving the lives of 10 children."
Steve Weatherbe writes from Victoria, British Columbia.