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'Pregnancy made me VOMIT 60 TIMES in a day' New mum Ashlee Price-Smith, 25, has something in common with the Duchess of Cambridge.

Scrolling through news stories on her phone, Ashlee Price-Smith clicked on some photos of four-year-old Prince George attending his first day of school. It was the picture of modern family life - a doting dad dropping off his nervous child. But as she read further, Ashlee's face fell when she saw some people's comments. 'Where's Kate?' one person asked. Another angrily wrote, 'It's only morning sickness! Why's she at home?' Ashlee put down her phone in disgust.

If anyone understood what the Duchess of Cambridge was going through with her third pregnancy, it was her. Like the royal, Ashlee has suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum - a severe, debilitating pregnancy sickness condition.

'I wanted to shout at the people criticising Kate,' Ashlee says. 'They have no idea what it's like to have hyperemesis. You can't even get out of bed, let alone take your child to school. It's so much more than severe morning sickness.' Looking at the now healthy, energetic new mum, it's hard to believe that on the worst day of Ashlee's pregnancy she vomited no fewer than 60 times. 'It was the worst experience of my life,' she remembers. 'The sickness was constant - every few minutes I threw up. I couldn't sip fluid, and there was no chance of food. Water, then just bile, kept coming up. I made a mental note of how often it happened - it was never ending. All I wanted was for someone to knock me out and make it stop. I couldn't even lie down or close my eyes.' Hospitalised What made it all the more traumatic was the fact that Ashlee had no idea she was pregnant. After several hours of near-constant vomiting, her mum took her to the GP, who immediately sent them to A&E. At hospital Ashlee was tested and told, to her surprise, that she was six weeks pregnant.

'It was a shock,' she says, 'but at least there was an explanation. A doctor mentioned hyperemesis, and explained it causes severe sickness and dehydration. I was hooked up to a drip and given fluids and anti-sickness medication, which helped me to feel a bit more normal. I stayed the night and was prescibed anti-sickness tablets for back home.' 'Every few I'd throw up - I couldn't '

Ashlee was one of the small number of women who, like the Duchess of Cambridge, suffer from this severe complication of pregnancy. And, as Ashlee discovered, although treatment exists in the form of medication,even water' there's no specific 'cure'.

'I lost count of the people who told me to try ginger,' she says. 'In the early days I tried eating a ginger nut biscuit, but threw it straight back up. Then someone else suggested travel sickness bracelets, but they did nothing. Although people meant well, no one understood what I was going through. They'd share their own stories of morning sickness, but they didn't compare. At times, I was even made to feel like I was being a drama queen.

'The anti-sickness tablets took the edge off my nausea, but up until I was 25 weeks I vomited frequently every day. Nothing would stay down, not even dry toast. Licking ice lollies was the only thing I could manage - but even that was hit and miss. It was horrible because I was hungry. I remember trying my mum's delicious cottage pie and being sick before I'd finished chewing my first mouthful.' minutes '

A typical day for Ashlee in those early weeks involved waking at 4am after about five hours sleep for the first bout of sickness, then throwing up again 20 minutes later. 'It was like clockwork,' she says. 'I'd look at my watch and wait for 20 minutes to pass, preparing myself for the sickness. Even if I nodded off, the nausea would wake me up after 20 minutes on the dot, and I'd be sick again. It was awful. Some nights I just rested my head on the pillow without sleeping and waited for the next time to vomit.

'The house was filled with sick bowls. I had about 15 in a big pile by the side of my bed. I couldn't leave the house at first. My fiance Greg was amazing, and so was my mum, who stayed with me while he was at work. Close friends dropped by armed with ice lollies.' Ashlee's condition required a total of five separate hospital stays. Whenever the vomiting and dehydration became too severe to handle at home, she was admitted for intravenous fluids and anti-sickness medication before being discharged and told to continue with the tablets at home.

Losing weight 'Doctors advised eating little and often, but that was easier said than done,' Ashlee recalls. 'I could hardly keep sips of water down and I worried constantly that our baby wasn't getting enough nutrition. When I told someone in a shop that I was pregnant, they told me I looked small and asked if the baby was growing properly. It really upset me, because I was worried about it too.

'From the day I found out I was expecting, the scales began dropping, and I never needed to buy maternity clothes. I ended up losing a stone and a half throughout my entire pregnancy, meaning I ended up smaller than before I'd even conceived,' explains Ashlee.

To reassure themselves, Ashlee and Greg paid for extra private scans, which showed that the baby was growing normally. Ashlee also joined an online forum for hyperemesis sufferers, where she could research information and chat to medics, which helped smaller before to calm her nerves. 'A doctor explained the baby would take everything it needed from me,' she says.

A nurse herself, Ashlee ended up being signed off sick for most of her pregnancy, having only made it into work for a total of 10 days. Earning less money meant she wasn't able to save for maternity leave, which only worsened her state of mind.

'Psychologically, it was tough,' she admits.

'Some days I'd just cry because I couldn't cope. More than anything I wanted to enjoy being pregnant, but instead I felt robbed of that special time. I'd see pregnant women on the street and think how unfair it was that they were happy and I was miserable. My life was on hold.' Light at the end of the tunnel finally appeared when Ashlee hit the 25-week mark and the frequent bouts of sickness eased. Her wedding day was approaching, so the timing couldn't have been better. 'Our big day was planned for when I was 30 weeks pregnant,' Ashlee says. 'In the run-up, everyone asked if I wanted to postpone it, but I was determined not to let hyperemesis ruin my life. I was starting to feel better by the time it came round, but my biggest fear was being sick at the ceremony.' Luckily, Ashlee's adrenaline carried her through her wedding day without so much as a dry retch. And for the last few weeks of her pregnancy, she only felt sick occasionally.

Then when she was one week from her due date, the medical team advised Ashlee to have her labour induced, because her bump was measuring small on the average growth chart.

A healthy baby Ten weeks ago, following a 27-hour labour, Ashlee gave birth to baby Jacob, who weighed a perfectly healthy 5lb 9oz. 'I was so, so relieved,' she says. 'Despite everything I'd been through, Jacob had thrived.' In hospital the following day, Ashlee ate her first proper meal in nine months - jacket potato with tuna. 'It was liberating,' she says. 'For the first time in what seemed like forever I didn't need a sick bowl. And I was able to enjoy those special early days with Jacob. Holding my baby boy in my arms, I knew that every single second of my sickness had been worth it. If I had to go through it all again, I would.' Ashlee is in awe of the Duchess of Cambridge. 'It's crazy to think that she is going through what I did for the third time,' she says. 'But why should you let something as horrible as hyperemesis stop you enjoying life and doing what you want to do? I have every sympathy for Kate.

'I'd like another baby one day, but this time I want to put plans in place in case I suffer again. I just hope that by talking about what a horrible condition hyperemesis is, people will realise it's absolutely nothing like morning sickness.'

THE FACTS: Hyperemesis gravidarum

Hyperemesis is a severe complication of pregnancy affecting 1-2% of pregnant women, unlike the fairly normal pregnancy sickness (also called morning sickness), which affects up to 80% of pregnant women.

Hyperemesis includes symptoms like excessive vomiting, dehydration, constant nausea, weight loss, fatigue, headaches and depression. It can be treated with anti-sickness medication.

The cause is not understood, but is thought to be due to the hormones produced during pregnancy, which are at their highest in the first trimester.

'Every few minutes I'd throw up - I couldn't even sip water' 'I ended up losing a stone and a half - I was smaller than before I got pregnant'

CAPTION(S):

Ashlee lost weight during her pregnancy because of the sickness 38 weeks

Above: The sickness eased for her wedding day, with Greg. Left: With healthy baby Jacob
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 24, 2017
Words:1555
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