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Kate Middleton’s Troubled Pregnancy: Is Her Baby in Danger?

Tuesday, 04 Dec 2012 12:18 PM

 

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Newly pregnant Kate Middleton has been hospitalized with a rare pregnancy complication that could endanger her health and that of her unborn child, a top gynecologist says.
“This is a condition that we do take very seriously because this is a condition that can potentially cause a miscarriage, as well as harm to the mother,” Robert Atlas, M.D., chief of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, told Newsmax Health.
Prince William rushed his wife to the hospital yesterday, after which it was revealed that the future queen was pregnant and would be hospitalized for at least several days. Although there’s been speculation for weeks that Middleton is pregnant, her hospitalization forced the British royal family into making the early announcement. She reportedly is eight weeks pregnant.
Middleton is suffering from a rare pregnancy complication known as hyperemesis gravidarum. Although news reports initially described it as “severe morning sickness,” the disorder is more serious than that, Dr. Atlas said.
“Although 70 percent of women have some form of nausea and vomiting, the severity associated with this condition occurs in less than 1 percent of pregnancies, said Dr. Atlas. “At Mercy, of the 3,000 deliveries we perform a year, we see this perhaps 15 to 20 times.”
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Most of the time, the condition does not end in miscarriage. However, because of the nutritional loss to the developing baby, “it has the potential to do so,” Dr. Atlas said, adding that the condition also presents serious immediate health problems for the mother.
Because hyperemesis gravidarum causes such severe vomiting, it can result in dehydration and a loss of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes in the blood. This can lead to heart palpitation and heartbeat irregularities “which can cause real problems,” Dr. Atlas said.
In addition, “people with poor nutrition are prone to a number of disorders, including bone problems,” he said. Futhermore, extreme vomiting can also lead to stomach problems, including bleeding from the esophagus, as well as the disorder Barrett's esophagus, a condition in which the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid.
But what is perhaps most worrisome is that hyperemesis gravidarum can lead to a 10 percent loss in body weight. “When we see this condition in women who are slightly overweight, we don’t worry about it that much, but in a woman as thin as Kate Middleton, such a weight loss could be disastrous,” he said.
Because of the potential for serious complications, hyperemesis gravidarum is treated as a medical emergency. Treatment includes anti-vomiting drugs and intravenous rehydration. If these measures fail, a feeding tube may be required. Intravenous steroid drugs are used as a last resort.
Few studies have been done on the effects of this condition on the developing baby. But the limited research shows up to a 20 percent greater risk of psychological and behavioral problems in the child, ranging from learning disorders to problems like depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. However, Dr. Atlas is skeptical about such research.
Despite the seriousness of Middleton’s condition, Dr. Atlas said that there is strong reason to believe the pregnancy will turn out fine for mother and baby. “Most instances do work out well, but it’s not easy for the parents, or the family,” he added.
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