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Driven to abortion by morning sickness

Pregnancy

Pregnant women with severe morning sickness are being driven to terminations because they are not getting the care they need, research shows.

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The Duchess of Cambridge has suffered with it during both her pregnancies. Picture: Reuters

A damning report by experts at Plymouth University found mothers to be are being abandoned to cope with the condition alone.

Extreme morning sickness, known as hyperemesis gravidarum, affects about 15 000 women every year. The Duchess of Cambridge has suffered with it during both her pregnancies.

There is no cure but there are effective drugs to control the symptoms, which typically involve severe nausea, vomiting and extreme dehydration.

Yet doctors and midwives remain remarkably ignorant about the condition, the study suggests, and few expectant mothers are offered effective treatments.

A study of 394 women who have suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, published in the midwifery journal Midirs, found that only 34 percent were given accurate information about dealing with it.

One woman even told researchers she was told to "go home and deal with it". Another, who asked for medication because she was struggling to look after her children due to her extreme symptoms, was also dismissed.

"She told me 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 services." Half said they had not been believed by their doctor or midwife, and 25 percent felt they were not treated with dignity or respect.

Many patients were wrongly told that the most effective drug, ondansetron, was too expensive and came with severe side-effects. In the most extreme cases, women said their symptoms became so unbearable that they had abortions, even though they would have rather kept the baby.

The researchers found 11 women in their study – nearly three percent – had terminations because of the condition. Of these, five had not been prescribed ondansetron.

Study leader Caitlin Dean said the true figures may be closer to 10 percent, because women who had undergone abortions were less likely to engage with researchers.

Mrs Dean, who has suffered with hyperemesis gravidarum herself and runs the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support, said: "It is important that women 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 hyperemesis gravidarum yet but we can certainly improve care and treatment through new services, education and awareness."

Clare Murphy, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, added: "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."

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