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Charities warn pregnant women suffering extreme sickness denied effective treatment and compassionate care

 • New research finds 2/3 of women did not feel they were given the information needed to make their own decisions about medication in pregnancy
• More than half of women did not find access to treatment easy, and many were not satisfied with the care they received
• One woman told she was treating hospital like a “hotel”, another warned she could be reported to social services after saying she was struggling to care for her children
• British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Pregnancy Sickness Support warn some women left with no choice but to terminate wanted pregnancies

Pregnancy charities today warn that women across the UK suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) continue to be denied information or misled about the availability of safe, effective medications for this severe form of pregnancy sickness – experienced by the Duchess of Cambridge – leaving some with little choice but to end wanted pregnancies.

Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS) and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) are calling for greater investment in Day Units for women suffering from HG, which affects around 15,000 pregnancies every year, where women can receive specialist care from trained staff and avoid expensive hospital stays.

New research by PSS and researchers at Plymouth University surveying the experiences of 394 women and published in the midwifery journal Midirs today found only 34% of participants felt they were given accurate information to make informed decisions about medications and treatment and worryingly, many women reported being given false information about the risks of drugs such as Ondansetron, a treatment listed in the RCOG Greentop guidelines as safe and effective for treating hyperemesis.

“I was told ondansetron would give me a deformed baby and I would regret it by a nurse in a day unit.”

“I was told [ondansetron] was the strongest drug which isn’t true and made to believe when it didn’t work that thing else could be done, [I] terminated my baby because of this and now spiralled into depression.”

Other women were denied information about the range of safe medications available.

“Had termination because I was led to believe [there were] no more options”

Half of women found accessing treatment was difficult because they were often not believed when presenting to their doctor or midwife and 25% of women felt they were not treated with dignity and respect.

“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."

This research compared women’s experiences of treatment in HG units - specialist centres within early pregnancy units or Gynaecology wards where women can attend for rapid IV rehydration and return home the same day – and on hospital wards. Women were significantly more satisfied with treatment in day units and spent half as much time in hospital, representing a significant cost saving for the NHS.

Where care was good the impact was substantial, with women thanking their healthcare professionals for enabling them to continue their pregnancy.

“The last time I was treated there I had opted to terminate the pregnancy as I just couldn’t cope. This time I felt supported every moment. . . I was given clear treatment options but without false promises, and I was also told that I can go back in whenever I want. I was told ‘you know your body best, if you feel ill we’ll treat you’. . . They did a really good job”.

Caitlin Dean, chairperson of Pregnancy Sickness Support and lead researcher, said:

It is vital that service development benefits patients and provides satisfaction. It is encouraging that women are satisfied with treatment in HG Day Units as they are certainly cost effective. However 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.

Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:

Any women with this condition who knows she cannot continue her pregnancy must always have swift access to high quality, compassionate abortion care, and deciding to end a pregnancy is something she should never feel ashamed of. However we can and must do more to ensure that women are given all the information they need to make their own decisions about the medication and treatments which may enable them to continue a much wanted pregnancy. Healthcare professionals must trust women – if a woman says she is ill and unable to cope – she should be believed and supported, not dismissed.


For further information, comment or case studies contact Caitlin Dean: Caitlin@pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk, call 07932082024 or 01208872801

About PSS

Pregnancy Sickness Support is a charity which provides information to women suffering all levels or pregnancy sickness and particularly those experiencing HG. It runs a helpline, forum and a national peer support network

About BPAS

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) is a reproductive healthcare charity which sees nearly 70,000 women a year for advice and treatment for an unwanted pregnancy or a pregnancy they feel they cannot continue, at clinics across the UK

The UK has been chosen to host the 2nd International Colloquium on Hyperemesis Gravidarum, thanks to its cutting edge service development, guidelines and research. The event is to be hosted by PSS, bpas and Plymouth University

The event will be in Windsor on the 5-6th October 2017 and is aimed at healthcare professionals, policy makers and researchers. Media passes are available. For more details go to www.ICHG2017.org