Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG for short) is a complication of pregnancy involving extreme and constant nausea and vomiting.
While many women suffer from sickness during pregnancy, HG is extreme. It causes severe weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, isolation and often depression.
In fact, it’s so traumatic that many sufferers are left with lasting symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
Without treatment HG can be dangerous, with complications for both mum and baby. Before modern treatments, such as IV fluids, it was the leading cause of death in early pregnancy.
A couple of years ago the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support published the results of a study carried out in conjunction with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. This highlighted the shocking reality that many women suffering from HG are not offered the full range of available medical treatments but are expected to just put up with the condition.
Sadly, a large proportion of women in the study felt, such are the devastating consequences of HG, that they had no choice but to terminate their much wanted pregnancy. This is an extremely sad and unacceptable state of affairs when safe and effective treatments are available.
The ongoing impact of the Thalidomide tragedy
More than 50 years on, the tragic events surrounding Thalidomide continue to cast a dark shadow over the issue of women taking medication in pregnancy. Marketed as safe for pregnant women, Thalidomide caused birth defects in thousands of babies worldwide.
Even now, many GPs are worried about prescribing medication to women, particularly in their first trimester, and women are often understandably scared to take it. This is particularly concerning in the case of women suffering from HG where medical treatment is essential to ensure the well-being of the mother and the baby.
Whilst their concerns are understandable, medicine has moved on a long way since then and we cannot, and should not, continue to be haunted by the ghost of Thalidomide so many years later. It is important to remember that there are now effective anti-emetic drugs available that are safe to be taken by pregnant women, even in the early stages of pregnancy.
Pregnancy Sickness Support
One important aspect of the charity’s work is to work with the medical profession to increase awareness and understanding of HG and the available treatments and to improve the care that sufferers receive.
For example, Pregnancy Sickness Support is campaigning for more HG day units to be opened across the country, such as the one that has recently been opened at St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol. Units such as this provide rapid rehydration, anti-emetic medication and advice, thereby significantly improving the experience of sufferers and reducing hospital admissions.
Pregnancy Sickness Support is running a number of initiatives to raise awareness and funds for the charity. Here’s how you and your family can get involved.
Bounty packs campaign
The charity is also running a campaign to raise enough money to put its information leaflets in the Bounty packs that are given out to all pregnant women across the UK.
To make this happen, Pregnancy Sickness Support needs to raise £9,000 to cover the cost of designing, printing and distributing 800,000 leaflets. The aim is to reach every mum-to-be in the UK so that sufferers of severe pregnancy sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum are aware of the charity and the support available.
People can donate by texting any amount £3, £5, £10 and the full amount will come to the charity. Please text NOHG16£[insert amount] to 70070
Find out more …
If you would like more information on available treatments please have a look at the Pregnancy Sickness Support website.