A recent British study has revealed that support for women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a debilitating form of morning sickness, is largely lacking. As a result, up to 10 percent of British women with the condition and about 14 percent of American women are believed to undergo an abortion for otherwise wanted pregnancies in an attempt to relieve their HG symptoms.

The study, conducted in partnership by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Pregnancy Sickness Support, surveyed more than 70 women from the UK about the support they received after being diagnosed with HG.

“Our research suggests that a significant proportion of women who have ended wanted HG pregnancies were not offered the full range of treatment options, but expected either to put up with the sickness or undergo an abortion,” the report read.

The researchers emphasized that no woman should be made to feel ashamed for undergoing an abortion, no matter her reasoning. However, their research revealed that around 10 percent of women interviewed had terminated their otherwise wanted pregnancy for no other reason than relief from their symptoms, resulting in 1,000 otherwise unnecessary abortions each year in the UK alone.

In the United States, this number is believed to be even higher, ABC News reported, and the circumstances of these abortions have reportedly led to high levels of grief and sadness.

“I suffered real anxiety and have never felt so vulnerable in all my life,” one of the women surveyed commented. “I don't think that the termination as such did this even though it was the worst and most horrific thing I had to do. I think it was how ill I was and how badly I had been treated that caused me my anxiety.”

Nearly half (46 percent) of the women said they had either asked for medication to cope with their symptoms and it had been refused or that they simply were not offered any drugs. The main reason women were not offered medication to treat their symptoms was fetal harm. Although children born of mothers who experience HG during pregnancy have about 3.28-fold increased risk of neurodevelopmental delays, but according to a recent UCLA study, there does not appear to be any association with medication used to treat HG and this risk, The Daily Mail reported. Rather, any delays in the children born of women with this condition are believed to be due to poor nutrition in early stages of pregnancy, most probably brought on by excessive vomiting and dehydration.

Although the majority of women experience some form of morning sickness during pregnancy, hyperemesis gravidarum is characterized by severe nausea, weight loss, and an electrolyte disturbance. The exact cause of HG is unknown, but it’s believed to be due to a rise in hormone levels. The condition is extreme, with 95 percent of women in the British study describing their symptoms as intolerable.

The researchers responsible for the study hope that raising awareness of the condition will lead to progress in HG treatment.

"We can start by giving women tablets to help the sickness, bring them into the hospital to receive intravenous fluids and nutrition if necessary and give steroids in very severe cases," Dr. Daghni Rajasingam, a spokeswoman for Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the BBC in reference to the report.

Giving women the means to administer intravenous fluids at home to combat dehydration may also be a cost-effective way of both reducing the amount of hospital admissions and, in the long term, the number of preventable abortions.

Source: I Could Not Survive Another Day, British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Pregnancy Sickness Support. 2015.