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Better care needed for those suffering extreme morning sickness, charities say

Some expectant mothers suffering from extreme morning sickness are being denied effective treatment and compassionate care, charities have said


The British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Pregnancy Sickness Support said some women with the condition feel they are left with no choice but to terminate their pregnancies.

Severe morning sickness, also known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) – which the Duchess of Cambridge suffered during both her pregnancies – is thought to affect about one in 100 expectant mothers.

Many are sick multiple times a day and are unable to keep any food or drink down. Some women with the condition report being sick up to 50 times a day.

It may require hospital treatment.

But new research conducted on 394 women suffering from the condition found that only 34% felt they were given accurate information to make informed decisions about medications and treatment.

Some women reported being given false information about the risks of drugs such as ondansetron.

Guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists state that: “There is evidence that ondansetron is safe and effective, but because data are limited it should be used as second-line therapy.”

But one women told researchers: “I was told ondansetron would give me a deformed baby and I would regret it by a nurse in a day unit.”

Another said: “I was told [ondansetron] was the strongest drug which isn’t true and made to believe when it didn’t work that nothing else could be done, I terminated my baby because of this and now spiralled into depression.”

Half of women said they found accessing treatment difficult because they were often not believed when presenting to their doctor or midwife.

Meanwhile, 25% of women felt they were not treated with dignity and respect.

“I was told to go home and deal with it like everyone else and that hospital wasn’t a ‘hotel’,” one said.

Another added: “I asked to speak to the doctor about changing medication as the cyclizine wasn’t working for me and I couldn’t function enough to look after my other two children.

“She actually told me that she wasn’t there to ‘sort out my social life’ and that if I couldn’t look after my children she would refer me to social service. I was dumbstruck and horrified.”

The charities have called for better investment for day units supporting women with the condition.

Caitlin Dean, chairwoman of Pregnancy Sickness Support and lead researcher, said: “It is vital that service development benefits patients and provides satisfaction. It is encouraging that women are satisfied with treatment in HG Day Units as they are certainly cost effective.

“However it is important that whatever setting women receive treatment they are treated with dignity and respect, that their symptoms are acknowledged and believed and that the information they receive is accurate and evidence-based.”

Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, added: “We can and must do more to ensure that women are given all the information they need to make their own decisions about the medication and treatments which may enable them to continue a much wanted pregnancy.

“Healthcare professionals must trust women – if a woman says she is ill and unable to cope – she should be believed and supported, not dismissed.”

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