Morning sickness is a common side effect of pregnancy, and the symptoms can range to mild nausea to severe vomiting. If you’re lucky, it begins to fade in the second trimester. And if you’re not, you might find yourself hugging the toilet right up until the baby comes.
And if you’re really unlucky, you might fall into the one percent of pregnant women who suffer from severe morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum.
Severe morning sickness can sometimes be treated with medications or acupuncture, but it can get bad enough that a pregnant woman might need to be hospitalized or fed through a tube. It got so bad for UK mom Cheryl Harrison that she made the excruciating decision to terminate her pregnancy.
Harrison recently told her story to the the Daily Mail. Harrison, 34, had suffered severe morning sickness throughout her first pregnancy, vomiting up to 40 times a day. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl five years ago. But her second pregnancy left her even sicker than before, unable to work and unable to care for her child. So at nine weeks, Harrison and her husband decided to end the pregnancy.
Calling it the most horrendous decision she’s ever made, Harrison told the Daily Mail:
“I was putting my life in danger. James could see how much I was suffering and never opposed the idea of a termination, but he still thinks of the family we might have had. I think there are other women who have terminated pregnancies for the same reason but it’s a taboo, no one discusses it.”
Harrison says that though she was desperate to have another baby, her severe morning sickness left her unable to cope. In fact, though she can’t imagine life without her daughter, Scarlett, there was a point during her first pregnancy when she hoped she would miscarry:
“I was vomiting morning, noon and night for my entire (first) pregnancy. I was extremely depressed. I had a good job, a career that I loved, but I couldn’t even stand up. There was no way I could work. The 20-week scan showed I had a beautiful baby girl but I was almost disappointed because I just wanted the pregnancy to end. I had a normal delivery and now I cannot imagine life without Scarlett.
Afterwards I was desperate to have another baby and thought I would be mentally prepared and able to cope. But the sickness was worse than ever.
I had one day where I could not move from the bathroom, I was sick 27 times. I couldn’t get Scarlett anything to eat even though she was starving. I dragged myself across the floor, managed to get her some chocolate from the fridge and thought ‘I can’t do this again’.”
Clearly, Harrison’s case is extreme. But the HER Foundation says that Harrison is not alone. Untreated or poorly treated hyperemesis sometimes does lead women to turn to termination out of desperation, says HER, but that when severe morning sickness is treated quickly and aggressively, this last resort decision can be avoided.
Treatment varies, but according to HER, all women with severe morning sickness should receive bed rest and IV fluids — as well as IV vitamins if they’re dehydrate — from the outset. Other treatments include medications, as well as alternative, behavioral, or nutritional therapies.
Have you ever suffered from severe morning sickness? Share your story with us in comments.