I was very lucky each time I was pregnant. With my two girls, I had virtually no morning sickness. When I was pregnant with my son, I had an underlying relentless feeling of nausea throughout the day for a couple of months but I never actually threw up. Still, I distinctly remember the odd way things smelled, everything from normally good things, like the aroma of coffee to typically bad scents, like the NYC subway. I prayed on the subway each day to make it from stop to stop, always ready to escape to the platform each time the doors opened. But like I said, it never became worse than that. For many women, morning sickness becomes debilitating and many say that doctors are failing to treat it properly. Some also say this failure to effectively address its harsh effects may be behind the increased number of abortions in women who suffer from severe morning sickness.
Women who receive medication in the early stages are less likely to get to the point of requiring a hospital stay. But those who vomit many times a day, become dehydrated and require treatment on an IV drip. In the U.S and Canada, the drug diclectin is used but in the U.K., doctors routinely advise more natural methods, such as ginger and acupuncture, in light of the thalidomide tragedies.
One woman, Claire Barwell became so debilitated, she aborted a much-wanted baby because of a severe and extreme form of morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Already a mother of two children, she said her parents helped her get through the sickness the first two times and also says abortion wasn’t an option for her because her family was so against it. But when the third pregnancy worsened, she was estranged from her husband at the time, and after being hospitalized twice, she had an abortion at twelve weeks.
Six months later, Claire fell in love with a man who wanted to have his own children. Despite her past, he convinced her that with a different father, her symptoms might be different so Claire became pregnant. But the HG reared its ugly head at six weeks.
Here’s how she described her condition:
Claire began to vomit up to 40 times a day, the stomach acid making her oesophagus unbearably raw. She says she was often too weak even to lift her head to be sick. ‘But I vowed to carry on with the pregnancy,’ she says. ‘I was with a loving, supportive man. Whatever happened, I would get through it.’
Claire’s GP signed her off sick from work, but at home things rapidly worsened. ‘I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat,’ she recalls. ‘My eyes were so sore I couldn’t even have the lights on.
‘If I tried to get out of bed, I’d collapse on the floor. I was crippled with terrible migraines. It was so bad I genuinely thought I was dying. My head pounded, I couldn’t think straight, my hormones were raging. I wanted to curl into a ball.’
Her new husband David was “nothing but supportive” but was also disturbed at how sick Claire became.
At seven and a half weeks, Claire was admitted to Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham with extreme dehydration. ‘I hadn’t eaten for three days,’ she says. ‘A feeding tube was strapped to my nose to rehydrate me, but barely an hour would pass without my throwing up again. The nurses were at a loss as to what to do. I was bed-bound, sick and drowning in misery. I remember thinking: “How can I survive like this for another seven months?”
Claire was treated with a combination of drugs and natural methods but nothing worked, and she and her new husband ultimately decided to have that pregnancy terminated as well.
Astoundingly, the couple say they want to try again. Claire says the abortions haunt her because she very much wanted the babies each time but could not live with the pregnancy effects:
“I wasn’t just physically ill, I was mentally destroyed, my brain so starved of fluid nothing made sense any more. I felt like I was dying and a survival instinct kicked in,” says Claire.
Hyperemesis gravidarum, the most severe form of morning sickness, is reported to affect one in every 100 women.
(Click here for a personal account of how one Babble writer endured such extreme morning sickness, she considered terminating her pregnancy.)
How bad was your morning sickness? Would you ever consider abortion due to severe morning sickness? What helped best relieve your morning sickness? Did your doctor/midwife offer helpful solutions and support during your pregnancy?