Hyperemesis Causes Desperate UK Mother to Choose Abortion
London’s The Daily Mirror has reported that a 34-year-old UK woman has made an agonizing, and to many, an unthinkable decision of aborting her baby nine weeks into her pregnancy due to severe morning sickness, called hyperemesis gravidarum.
Cheryl Harrison states that she vomited up to 40 times a day, was not able to eat or drink, and suffered severe hypertension during her pregnancy with her second child. The illness became so severe, that she found herself not able to care for her 5-year-old daughter Scarlett and felt she was putting her entire family’s health at risk.
Although Cheryl experienced the same symptoms with her first daughter Scarlett, she assumed that the second pregnancy would be better as severe hyperemesis is more likely in first-time mothers. After making the desperate decision to abort the pregnancy, she told The Daily Mirror that she was disappointed in her doctor’s treatment of her disorder, saying they “trivialized” her condition. She is hoping her story will stress the need for better treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum.
Although rare, Ms. Harrison’s case is not unheard of. Some women feel such psychosocial effects from hyperemesis that termination of the pregnancy appears to be their only option. Women may be unable to perform household chores or even personal hygiene tasks. Fatigue is severe, sometimes lasting for months. Relationships become strained, leading to isolation and depression. Financial losses are also a risk, as women may lose their jobs or be forced to resign due to severe nausea and vomiting. The cost of medical treatments can add to that burden.
Nausea and vomiting are common in pregnancy, occurring in 70-85% of women. The etiology is not known, but is thought to be a result of hormonal changes that occur or as a protective measure to reduce exposure to potentially teratogenic materials. The peak of “morning sickness” (as it is often called, but does not always occur in the morning) is around 8-12 weeks of gestation.
Uncomplicated nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is generally associated with a healthy pregnancy and a lower rate of miscarriage. However, hyperemesis gravidarum, may affect the health and well-being of both the pregnant woman and the fetus.
Hyperemesis gravidarum occurs in 0.5-2% of pregnancies in the United States. It is characterized by vomiting more than three to four times per day, significant weight loss (more than 10 pounds), and dehydration.
Nonwhite patients appear to be affected more often, and it also is more common in patients younger than 30 years old. The cause is unknown, but it may have a genetic component as sisters and daughters of women with hyperemesis have a higher incidence. It is also more likely in female gestation, multiple gestation, triploidy, trisomy 21, and a personal history of the condition in prior pregnancies. Women with history of motion sickness, migraine headaches, psychiatric illness, diabetes, being underweight prior to pregnancy, hyperthyroidism, pyridoxine deficiency, and gastrointestinal disorders are also at an increased risk.
Treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum includes restoration of fluids and electrolytes, likely through IV. For those who cannot eat, tube feedings or parenteral nutrition (TPN) may be used for nutrition. Medications such as Promethazine, Meclizine, and Droperidol are often used.
For more information on Hyperemesis Gravidarum, visit the HER (Hyperemesis Education & Research) Foundation website at www.hyperemesis.org.