Indiana woman understands royal morning sickness

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A condition that puts pregnant women at risk is receiving royal attention. That's because Kate Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge, has been hospitalized for it, during the pregnancy of her first child.

Many pregnant women experience morning sickness. There's nothing unusual about that. This condition, though, is far from just normal morning sickness. Some say its like having an intestinal bug for nine months.

The only relief a pregnant woman gets when she has this condition comes when their baby is finally born.

That's what happened to Kate Shepherd. When Shepherd looks into the smiling face of her one-year-old son, Joey, she remembers the nine month struggle to get him here.

"It was one of the most difficult points of my life," said Shepherd.

"Debilitating" might be a better word for the condition Shepherd had her entire pregnancy. 

"I was literally vomiting about 12 times a day," she explains. "It was like the worst case of food poisoning or the flu that you can imagine," she added.

Shepherd's condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum, and has received a lot of attention lately with the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge, who's struggling with the same problem and has been hospitalized. 

"There are women who have morning sickness and then there are women who have hyperemesis gravidarum," explained Doctor Sara Pierce.

Pierce has seen severe cases in some of her patients.

"They can be hospitalized, end up needing IV fluids, in the IV's continuously throughout their pregnancy for their nutrition. They can't eat," she explained.

Studies have been inconclusive, so nobody knows for sure what causes the condition.

"We think it's the elevated level of beta HCG, the pregnancy hormone, that causes it," said Dr. Pierce.

Whatever the cause, many women who have hyperemesis gravidarum, can't work during their pregnancy.

"I tried to work up through my pregnancy, and then about five months in, had to go completely on bed rest and quit working," said Shepherd, describing her struggle with the condition.

Shepherd ended up losing her job and her medical benefits.

"People need child care help. They need help with their job, and I think its definitely a problem for ladies," said Dr. Pierce.  The Duchess of Cambridge doesn't have to worry about those issues. Even so, Kate Shepherd knows some of what the Duchess is going through.

In the end, Shepherd said it was worth it.

"Knowing there's an end in sight makes it tolerable, and that you're going to get a great baby when you're done," said Shepherd as she cuddled her little boy.