21% of women with extreme morning sickness have abortions but there is help


Women with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), the condition Princess Kate has, suffer so terribly from the often undiagnosed and untreated condition that many of them choose to abort, not just once, but multiple times.

HG is a severe manifestation of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Women with the condition lose weight and struggle to maintain a normal life through months of constant nausea and vomiting. Out of fear for their babies’ health and their own lives, many women decide abortion is the only option.

HG effects only about .5-2% of pregnant women and therefore many times not even experienced obstetricians know the details about the condition. And unfortunately, many doctors think that women effected by HG are simply over exaggerating morning sickness. Melanie Metzbower was one of those women.

At 5 ½ weeks pregnant, Metzbower started to notice symptoms of morning sickness. Food began tasting bitter and she began feeling nauseous. She was told by her doctor’s office that this was completely normal and was advised to take ginger and try eating small bites and drinking small sips. Metzbower followed the advice, but her symptoms only worsened.

“I told my family that I didn’t think people had morning sickness that bad,” explains Metzbower, “I was nauseous constantly and vomiting five times a day at the minimum. I was only getting about 300-500 calories a day at best.”

Despite being prescribed both Zofran and Phenergan, in addition to being placed on a pump to administer constant Zofran and then finally given at home IV fluids, Metzbower was still struggling with normal life, including showering or simply getting up from a chair. Any motion at all would cause Metzbower to vomit.  She lost about 20 pounds. The pump meant having to put a needle in her stomach three times a day, but it allowed her to keep down some foods like dry cereal and grapes. Still, the effects only lasted a couple of weeks before the pump stopped working.

“I couldn’t even keep an ice chip down,” she says, “The doctor kept upping my dose of medication, but it still wasn’t working. I was just so hopeless. I stopped wanting to converse with my family. It was hard to watch TV. You don’t realize how much food is everywhere. I couldn’t even handle the thought of it.”

Finally, at about 11 weeks pregnant, Metzbower was referred to a specialist who deals with HG. She had heard about Dr. Jonathan Hodor of Maryland Perinatal Associates from one of the home nurses and asked her doctor a few times to refer her. When she finally saw him, she says he was sympathetic, compassionate and proactive. He prescribed a specific IV protocol of medications and vitamins over three days. This protocol helped so much that Metzbower steadily improved enough to get rid of the IV. Now at 16 weeks gestation, she continues to improve every day. And although there is a chance she could relapse, for now, she is grateful to have found Dr. Hodor and she wants other women with HG to find the help she did so that they are willing to carry their children to term.

In 2010, ABC News ran a report called Abortion: Last Resort for Hellish Morning Sickness. In this report, ABC talks with Anuja Batra who aborted two children because her vomiting with HG was so horrible that her doctors advised her to terminate. At the time of the interview, Batra was pregnant again and at 18 weeks gestation had been hospitalized seven times for near starvation.

Also in 2010, The Daily Mail shared the story of Cheryl Harrison, who had an abortion during her second pregnancy because her bout with HG was so bad that she was vomiting up to forty times a day and couldn’t care for her young daughter.

Not all OB/Gyns know about or understand HG.  Therefore, they don’t always take it seriously and don’t look into how to treat it.

“We cannot write off women who have this pregnancy related disease (as it being something psychological),” says Dr. Hodor, “They need to be treated compassionately and aggressively”.

Often times, the suffering is so great for the mother, that the life and health of the mother is used as a reason to abort because proper treatment has not be given. In fact, a study by the University of Southern California found that 21% of women with HG who want their babies end up choosing to terminate out of fear. And 6% of them have aborted more than one child due to HG.

“I was so scared I was going to lose my baby or die,” she says, “I don’t want to sound melodramatic but I have never felt on the verge of death before. I didn’t think I could take another minute. I can’t imagine what that’s like for women who are told to abort.”

Despite the fact that there is a 90% chance Metzbower and others with HG will experience the condition with future pregnancies, Metzbower is hopeful that should she and her husband follow through with their plans for more children, Dr. Hodor will be able to help her have a more normal pregnancy.

“Dr. Hodor told me not to let this experience make me decide not to have more children,” says Metzbower, “He said we will be proactive and he will get me on the regimen that will help me as much as possible and we won’t let it get this bad next time. My understanding is that the earlier the symptoms are caught and treated, the easier it is to treat.”

Women suffering from HG can visit for help finding support and a specialist. If your doctor is telling you that your symptoms of HG are all in your head and you are considering abortion, there is help available that can help you feel better and save your child’s life.

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