This site is intended for health professionals only


Pregnant women with severe nausea and vomiting ‘struggling to access treatment’



Women suffering from severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy – called hyperemesis – are struggling to access treatment, according to a large UK-wide survey.

The findings, based on responses from more than 5,000 women further highlight how women with hyperemesis can be driven to terminate a pregnancy or have suicidal thoughts.

A team from King’s College London, Pregnancy Sickness Support and the BBC reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology that 52.1% had considered an abortion, and nearly 5% ended a pregnancy as a result of the condition.

In addition, more than a quarter (25.5%) had considered suicide, and nearly 7% regularly so.

A separate analysis of the survey showed that around 85.7% of respondents had taken prescribed medication for hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) but 41.2% said they had to actively request it and the option was not suggested by a healthcare professional.

Overall 15.3% and 24.1% said their experience of primary care when suffering from hyperemesis in pregnancy as extremely poor or poor, respectively. For secondary care 9.9% and 20.1% classed their experience as extremely poor or poor.

But, women who received medication or rehydration treatment tended to say they had a more positive experience, the researchers reported.

The survey results also showed that hyperemesis had marked effects on women’s ability to function and look after their families. Some women said as well as difficulty accessing treatment they were made to feel like they should just be able to cope.

In the short term, 70% of respondents were bedridden because of hyperemesis impacting their ability to look after themselves, their families and continue working.

Writing in Obstetric Medicine, the researchers said many descriptions of attitudes of health care professionals were negative and revealed a lack of knowledge surrounding the condition.

‘We have demonstrated a clear association between perception of care received from [healthcare professionals] and poor mental health outcomes/termination of pregnancy,’ they concluded.

Dr Caitlin Dean, chairperson of Pregnancy Sickness Support, and study co-author said: ‘This study demonstrates the scale of the problem with HG care in the UK. Too many women are receiving poor care and losing their much-wanted babies. We need greater awareness of the available treatments and more compassion in the way care is provided.’

A version of this story was originally published on Nursing in Practice sister publication Pulse.

To complete relevant women’s health CPD modules on Nursing in Practice Learning, click here.