Tackling the biggest Taboo
I speak to women day in and day out about hyperemesis gravidarum and the all consuming impact it can have on their lives, not just during pregnancy but for many years afterwards too. The biggest taboo has got to be the issue of termination for the condition. To say it's common would be an understatement.
These are not terminations of unwanted babies. Many of these are babies which were planned and tried for within happy and healthy relationships. Some are babies which took months, years and even IVF to conceive. Others are babies conceived by “surprise” yet none the less wanted and welcome.
So why are they being terminated? Well, I have my theories on the subject, specifically around a lack of healthcare professional knowledge and understanding of the condition, an unwillingness to treat and a sheer lack of compassion. But to get to the root of the issue and to understand the situation on a deeper level so that we can look to the future and improve care and treatment for this fatal condition we need to know more about what women are experiencing.
In my new role as Chair of Pregnancy Sickness Support I've established a new working relationship with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), who are the leading independent abortion service provider in the UK. Together we want to tackle the issue of “unwanted terminations” for treatable medical conditions. Too often women faced with taking medication in pregnancy, not just for hyperemesis but a whole host of conditions, are told that “nothing is safe” and “if you can't put up with the symptoms you'll just have to terminate”.
So here is what I need you to do... if you have suffered hyperemesis and you have terminated a pregnancy, whether or not it was the mainreason or just a contributing factor, please fill in this survey as fully as possible. The more terminations you have experienced the longer it will take but for one termination it should just take about 10 minutes. It's completely anonymous so you can't be identified.
We hope that by shedding light on this sensitive issue we can look to educate healthcare professionals and the wider public so that women faced with difficult decisions about the future of their pregnancies and the risk/benefits of medication can do so with full and accurate information. So that women do not end pregnancies they actually want to continue because of a lack of knowledge, understanding and support. So that wanted babies are not lost to old wives tales and stigma.
The more women who speak out now the greater the hope for the future, for our daughters and our son's partners. The more responses we get the louder our voice and the harder it is to ignore.
Update: Outcomes from this survey...
Thank you to all who took part in this survey. So many women shared their heartache and distress and gave honest accounts of what happened to them... it was deeply humbling and I've written more to you all here.
The results from the survey were published via PSS and BPAS and is available here.
The survey was met with incredible media coverage including the front page of The Times, an interview with me on Woman's Hour and a double feature on BBC Scotland.
Almost all the major papers covered it in print and online. Here are a selection of a few of them: