PREGNANT women struck by an acute form of morning sickness suffered by the Duchess of Cambridge are failing to receive the treatment they need with many feeling they have no choice but to seek a termination, a new report has claimed.
Charities the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Pregnancy Sickness Support have published a joint report entitled I Could Not Survive Another Day, which said that 1,000 women – or 10 per cent – suffering from the condition hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) decided to have an abortion as a result of their illness.
The condition, which the Duchess of Cambridge suffered during both of her pregnancies, is a severe complication of pregnancy, with symptoms including extreme nausea, vomiting and headaches.
Sufferers reported vomiting blood and being unable to get out of bed due to the condition, which affects around 700 women in Scotland each year.
Caitlin Dean, chair of Pregnancy Sickness Support, said: “Most pregnant women expect morning sickness and are willing to tolerate severe symptoms before seeking help, so by the time she is presenting at the GP or hospital, staff can be confident that her symptoms need to be taken seriously and likely need treatment.
“Women should not be expected to choose between tolerating dangerous levels of sickness or terminating a wanted pregnancy before all treatment options have been explored.”
Fears of a repeat of the thalidomide disaster – when babies were born with deformities after mothers were given the drug to ease morning sickness – may be causing an unwillingness in doctors to prescribe medicine, the report warned.
However there are a number of treatment options. Early treatment can prevent serious illness and dehydration. If it is not managed properly, HG can lead to burst blood vessels, pressure sores and in some extreme cases post traumatic stress disorder.
Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “No woman should ever feel stigmatised or judged for doing what is right for her and her family.
“But misplaced concerns about the impact of medication on the foetus should not prevent a woman accessing the care she needs to continue a wanted pregnancy.”
It is crucial to educate both pregnant women and healthcare professionals on the difference between HG and normal morning sickness, warned Dr Daghni Rajasingam, a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Dr Rajasingam, from St Thomas’ Hospital in London, said: “The issue is, it is difficult for women themselves to know when it is just morning sickness or something much more serious.”
I was made to feel guilty for suffering this awful condition
I was vomiting multiple times a day, miserably dragging myself to work every morning, weak and woozy, where I spent a great deal of my time leaning over the toilet bowl – then throwing up in the street as I walked home, writes Jane Bradley.
I was acutely nauseous from the second I woke up to when I closed my eyes at night. But there are many pregnant women with even more severe morning sickness.
As I was managing to keep “enough” food and water down, I wasn’t suffering from the most dangerous effects of hyperemesis – dehydration and malnutrition – so wasn’t technically diagnosed with the condition. Not that it would have made a whole lot of difference if I had been.
Trips to the midwife were met with no sympathy and suggestions that I “try ginger biscuits”, which is perhaps fine to tackle a slight queasiness, but doesn’t even scratch the surface of feeling (and being) horrifically sick, constantly, for months on end.
“It’s a small price to pay for having your baby,” I was told, made to feel guilty for complaining when I should have counted myself lucky for my healthy pregnancy.