Extreme ‘Morning Sickness’ Causing Women to Choose Termination Over Continuation of Pregnancy

photo of woman in a white terrycloth robe, having a morning sickness episode in her bathroom

‘Extreme morning sickness’, a little-known or recognised condition, has led at least one woman to terminate her pregnancy, the UK’s Guardian reports today.

Later this week, Warwick University will hold Britain’s first-ever conference to discuss the condition. Dr Brian Swallow of Lincoln University (where I work), one of the organisers of the conference, says that he became interested in researching the area of sickness in pregnancy after his wife suffered badly with it during her two pregnancies. He says:

‘She [my wife] couldn’t get out of bed, she was in and out of hospital, she was nauseous and [was] vomiting all day. At one stage, in her second pregnancy, my little boy even asked me whether his mummy was going to die. It’s a really serious, debilitating condition – but many people don’t understand that. You even get employers who think women are exaggerating its severity so they can have time off work.’

In anticipation of the this week’s coming conference, the topic of extreme sickness in pregnancy, or ‘hyperemesis gravidarum’ to use the medical term, has been featured in the UK media over the past couple of weeks.

The Daily Mail recently featured one woman’s tale of the agony of suffering extreme sickness in pregnancy – Cheryl Harrison, 34, told of how she was nine weeks into her planned second pregnancy when she made the decision to have a termination, her sickness being so bad that it left her unable to leave her home or care for her two-year old daughter.

Around seven out of ten pregnant women have episodes of nausea during pregnancy, but for a smaller number of women, estimated at one in one hundred, the symptoms of the sickness are bad enough to require hospital treatment. In this extreme form, the sickness can be a very serious health risk to both mother and child.

Yet despite the potentially very serious consequences of the condition, many women feel that their symptoms aren’t taken seriously. Dr Swallow claims that this is because there is no clearly defined way of treating the condition medically –- there is no uniformity to how a woman will be treated if she goes to her GP. He asserts that ‘some doctors may be very good at knowing how to help -– but for too many women the response of their GP will be that [the sickness] is just something they have to put up with.’

In the UK there is no drug licensed to help women who suffer from extreme sickness in pregnancy. There are treatments in existence that could help deal with the problem but, the Guardian reports, the decision to medically licence such treatments in the UK has not been taken, and the will to do so is lacking -– something else that points to the fact that the condition is not always taken particularly seriously.

In my mind, there needs to be treatments licenced to help women who suffer dreadfully with sickness during their pregnancies. Of course, this is easier said than done -the stigma of taking drugs or supplements during pregnancy would firstly need to be overcome. In addition, the shadow of Thalidomide , the 1960s anti-nausea drug that led to birth defects, means that such treatments would need to be thoroughly proven as safe before expectant mothers would be willing to take them, and doctors willing to prescribe them. If these barriers were to be overcome, however, it seems to me that more women would be able to overcome extreme sickness in pregnancy and that the condition would then have more gravitas to be formally recognised and dealt with sympathetically by employers.

And of course, if the licensing and development of appropriate treatments means women like Cheryl Harrison do not have to face the agonising decision of whether to terminate a precious, planned and wanted pregnancy –- then this can only be a good thing.

What do you guys think? Have any of you experienced sickness in pregnancy? Do you agree when I assert that more research should be conducted into safe methods of treating the condition, or is this just a cross that some women have to bear should they want children?

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16 thoughts on “Extreme ‘Morning Sickness’ Causing Women to Choose Termination Over Continuation of Pregnancy

  1. I’ve been through hyperemesis. It traumatized me emotionally, and took a serious toll on my body. The first trimester I lost 20 lbs. I’ve had to have five teeth capped from the acid erosion on my enamel. I can’t describe how awful hyperemesis is. The entire pregnancy, I managed to barely keep myself out of the hospital.

    The worst part? My doctor failed to mention that a drug was available. He figured my insurance wouldn’t cover it, so he just didn’t bring it up. Guess what? It did, and I was pissed. Instead of vomiting for the remaining four months, I dry heaved all day. Good times.

    I remember coming home, and crying myself to sleep while I prayed for the strength to get through the pregnancy. I already loved my daughter, and I wasn’t going to give that up.

  2. By the way, my employer was unable to ignore the morning sickness. The vomiting was so frequent and severe that everyone in the building heard it. I was embarrassed, my coworkers were embarrassed…

    Most people don’t actually understand that it isn’t just ‘morning’ sickness. My boss though moving my shift back two hours would solve the problem. Ha!

  3. I had pretty bad morning sickness that lasted the normal amount of time. My doctor prescribed some anti nausea medicine for me and it helped a lot. My throat was so torn up from the vomiting that it was bloody. Luckily it stopped after the first trimester.
    It left me with deep sympathy for women who experience the type that lasts through the whole pregnancy. 9 months is a very long time.

  4. I had heard of (but cannot remember the source) of women who have morning sickness so badly and so frequently that the lining to their esophagus begins wearing away due to the constant vomiting. So in essence, they have to choose between severe esophageal problems and keeping their child. I can’t imagine how difficult of a choice that would be.

  5. I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum with my pregnancies. Luckily the Doc i had during my second pregnancy realized it was more than regular morning sickness and put me on zofran after my second hospitalization. I’d been so sick it caused me to become severely dehydrated. You stay sick and most mornings it seems like getting out of bed took to much energy.

  6. After watching a show about an ectopic pregnancy bursting a woman’s fallopian tube and then growing in her abdominal cavity (the baby was miraculously okay, but the doctors couldn’t remove the placenta and the woman is still in danger of dying instantly if the placenta separates from the organs), and now hearing about this, I’m not sure I ever want to get pregnant…

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  8. I already have severe nausea problems due to my acid reflux. I’ve actually been diagnosed with something called “cyclical vomiting syndrome”. Meaning, I vomit in cycles. Sometimes all day, sometimes for two weeks, to the point where my doctor threatens to hospitalize me because of dehydration. It can happen randomly, or when I don’t eat when I need to, or after surgery (no food before anesthesia + pain pills make my tummy want to freak out).

    I’m obviously at risk for hyperemesis during pregnancy, since I more or less have it even without being pregnant. If it got to the point where my life was in danger (and it very well could), it would be very hard for me to end the pregnancy. But I would do it. At that point the life of the fetus would be at risk anyway, and I would likely suffer spontaneous abortion (aka a miscarriage) due to poor nutrition and using up my fat stores to keep ME from dying.

    I will probably get medication as soon as I start trying to become pregnant, in hopes of preventing this. I’ve had to take pregnancy anti-nausea pills and chemo patient anti-nausea pills just for the normal vomiting, so I would imagine I’m a special case.

    I also have no qualms about vaporizing or ingesting marijuana if the need arises – many women do this but understandably won’t admit it, because people think they’re setting themselves up for crack babies. But if it comes down to aborting or vaporizing a bit of weed, am I really a villain for entertaining the option of weed? Frankly, weed helps my nausea than any pill ever could, and gets me eating much sooner after vomiting. And something tells me weed is better for a fetus than being deprived of vital nutrients at key stages of development.

  9. I’m 27 weeks pregnant and I stay sick. My family thinks its all in my head but its not. I really do hate feeling so lousy. I can’t eat or drink anything hardly without it coming back up and I get these headaches and I can’t hardly get outta bed. I’m so tired but I can’t sleep because I feel so sick and the heartburn won’t go away. My mouth stays dry and I get dizzy and lightheaded when I try moving.and my vision is getting worse. I don’t no what to do. They have tryed to give me 3 different nausea meds but they dnt work. I’m miserable. I have no energy and I stay hot all the time. I’m in an airconditioned room and I still sweat and feel like its 100 degrees….

  10. Related to increased estrogen levels, a similar form of nausea is also seen in some women who use hormonal contraception or hormone replacement therapy. The nausea can be mild or induce actual vomiting, however, not severe enough to cause metabolic derangement. In more severe cases, vomiting may cause dehydration, weight loss, alkalosis and hypokalemia. This condition is known as hyperemesis gravidarum and occurs in about 1% of all pregnancies. Nausea and vomiting can be one of the first signs of pregnancy and usually begins around the 6th week of pregnancy (counting gestational age from 14 days before conception).;^^^

    Bye for now <http://healthmedicinebook.comwt

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