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28th Jun 2018

This mum wants to raise awareness about extreme morning sickness

Alison Bough

Caitlin Dean, a mum-of-three and PhD student, is speaking out to raise awareness about hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme morning sickness).

New research into women’s experiences of treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme morning sickness) in the UK has found a worrying lack of informed consent to treatment, significant problems accessing treatment and high levels of dissatisfaction with care.

The research by Pregnancy Sickness Support and Plymouth University surveyed 394 women about their experiences, and found that only 34% felt they were given accurate information to make informed decisions about medications and treatment for the condition.

Worryingly, many women stated that they had been given false information about the risks of drugs such as ondansetron, a treatment listed as “safe and effective” for treating extreme morning sickness.

Caitlin Dean, a mum-of-three and doctoral student who carried out the research told the Plymouth Herald newspaper that she was herself hospitalised with the condition,

“I could barely move without being sick. We didn’t know what was happening and it was really scary.

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.

We may not have a cure for HG yet but we can certainly improve care and treatment through new services, education and awareness.”

Caitlin, who is also chairperson of Pregnancy Sickness Support, told the newspaper that she had even considered a termination but was too sick to attend a medical appointment.

The Cornwall-based mum’s research found that a quarter of women felt they were not treated with dignity and respect when they sought medical assistance for hyperemesis gravidarum. One mum said she was told to go home and ‘deal with it’,

“I was told to go home and deal with it like everyone else and that hospital wasn’t a ‘hotel’. 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 HSE says that about one in ten women continue to experience nausea and pregnancy after week 20 of their pregnancy. It affects one in every hundred women, although estimates vary depending on how the condition is defined,

“Hyperemesis gravidarum needs specialist treatment. You may be admitted to hospital if you are losing too much fluid. This is so that your condition can be assessed and appropriate treatment given, such as increasing your fluid levels and treating the ketosis.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is unlikely to cause harm to your baby. However, if it causes weight loss during pregnancy, there is an increased risk that your baby may be born with a low birth weight.”

The Hyperemesis Support Group of Ireland provide information on HG alongside supporting women who have – or have had – this condition.

Did you experience or receive treatment for HG? Let us know your experience in the Facebook comments.