A new survey has found that over half of women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) consider abortion, while a small number of them actually go through with it. Many of the respondents likewise spoke about how the medical industry failed them during their suffering, leading them to wish they were dead, with some even contemplating suicide.
The survey was recently released by King’s College London, and was published in Obstetric Medicine, an international peer-reviewed medical journal. Over 5,000 women were surveyed about their experience with HG, a severe form of sickness during pregnancy. Women with HG experience severe nausea and vomiting, along with possible weight loss, dehydration, and deficits in necessary vitamins and minerals. Many times, it’s so severe that women suffering from it are unable to work, and need to be hospitalized.
In the survey, 4.9% of women said they had an abortion due to HG, while 52.1% said they considered having one. Over 30% occasionally thought about, or regularly considered, committing suicide. 67.8% of the women were bedridden throughout their pregnancy and were unable to work, relying instead on daily support from partners or family. One woman said she had an abortion “to avoid losing my new job and home for my first child, which I had rented after [six] months of homelessness.”
Disturbingly, women said they experienced insufficient care from their medical providers, with many respondents rating their care as “poor” or “extremely poor.” Women frequently said they had to actively ask for medications to treat their HG, or were belittled by medical staff, despite their suffering. One woman said she was “made to feel stupid when I reported the extent of my sickness and told that I should really have been able to cope.”
Dr. Caitlin Dean, Chairperson for Pregnancy Sickness Support, which runs a helpline for HG, responded to the survey by admitting that quality medical care for the condition is too hard to find.
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“Sadly, while there are pockets of excellent care for hyperemesis gravidarum and individual staff who treat the condition well, this is still not the norm and the experiences of these women are very much representative of the many calls we receive daily to our charity,” she said in the press release about the survey. “There remains to this day a persistent stigma around pregnancy sickness which hampers access to treatment and results in women losing their desperately wanted babies.”
Women frequently find themselves being ignored by dismissive medical staff, who accuse them of exaggerating their symptoms or just wanting attention. “I would say that the vast majority of women who contact our helpline have had negative experiences with healthcare professionals,” Dean said in an interview for Medium. “As a charity for the condition, our women are biased toward the negative experiences. However, given that we receive between 30 and 50 calls each week, most of whom are receiving awful treatment or even being refused treatment, there is clearly still a massive problem with the way the condition is understood.”
A BBC article, meanwhile, pointed out that many women weren’t given access to steroid therapy, which can help manage the condition, or they had their request for medication turned down. In other words, the women who chose abortion did so because they received little, if any, medical help. Many women are so traumatized by their experience with HG that they won’t even risk getting pregnant again. “With all those motherly instincts you have, to terminate a child’s life you’ve got to be desperate. I really felt as if I was on my last legs,” Lily, one woman who suffered from HG, told the BBC. “I don’t trust the doctors. They don’t take it seriously enough and it would just lead to another termination.”
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