Guest Post: Hyperemesis Gravidarum Across the Pond

I’m pleased to bring you a guest post from Amanda, a UK hyperemesis gravidarum survivor and a fellow mommy blogger.  Amanda suffered from undiagnosed Hyperemesis Gravidarum during her first pregnancy in 2011, and had to fight until 21 weeks to get treatment for it. This, alongside other complications, has left her and her whole family terrified of another pregnancy, despite the desire for a larger family. Her experience has made her passionate about raising awareness of HG and she writes about it regularly on her own blog, The Family Patch, as well as supporting the work of Pregnancy Sickness Support, the UK’s only national charity dedicated to raising awareness of Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

 She is also currently writing a book on Hyperemesis, based heavily on research and the personal accounts of women who have suffered from HG in the UK.

With the recent news about the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, being diagnosed with and treated for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, the condition seems to have received a much needed boost of media coverage.

And so many of us in the HG community have been wondering what treatment she is getting, which may be easier for us in the UK than those of you in the US, as our healthcare systems differ in some rather large ways when it comes to this. Something I know from experience…

During my own pregnancy the majority of the information I found was from the US and some of it just didn’t relate to my experience over here. And yet, it was a US blogger (the wonderful owner of this blog) who listened to my plea when at 20 weeks I was still being refused treatment and then told me to get right back to the doctors and get the medication I needed.

Despite the differences in our healthcare systems, the experience of Hyperemesis Gravidarum is the same no matter where you are in the world. We all feel for poor Kate, just as we all feel compassion and empathy for any single woman we hear of who is facing the hell of a Hyperemesis pregnancy. It is a universal thing, and something that brings us all together as a community.

And yet, without an understanding of the ways in which our treatment options differ, it can be challenging to offer support and share the information and knowledge we may have. So let’s look at some of the major differences…

First of all, healthcare is free in the UK to anyone and everyone. The National Health Service (NHS) offers the opportunity to see a doctor (General Practitioner or GP) or midwife whenever you need it, free of charge.

This is something we often do not appreciate enough. We are very lucky in this respect, but it does sometimes have its downsides, including the fact that you can often see a different GP every time you visit your GP surgery (what we call the doctor’s office). Within the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy I saw five different GPs.

There are, of course, some real perks to free healthcare, including free prescriptions during pregnancy. Which means once prescribed anti-emetics, there is no paying for them. But it does mean that some women struggle to get prescriptions for the more expensive medications, if the GP decides a cheaper drug is a better option (even if this has proven to be less effective).

And then there is the fact that IV hydration at home is just not a possibility here in the UK. I have heard of a couple of women with severe cases of HG being treated at home, but generally it is not an option. The NHS just does not have the means to do this. So any woman needing IV hydration must travel to her nearest hospital with with the facility to do this and, usually, be admitted for an overnight stay. Although, having said this, some hospitals are starting to offer day-admissions.

We also do not have Zofran pumps here in the UK, which I know are relatively common in the US. In fact, we even have a different name for Zofran – here it is called Ondansetron. It took me a long time to make that connection when switching between US and UK support groups!

I’m sure there are other differences I may have missed, but these seem like the big ones. I hope it has helped shed some light on the way HG is treated in the UK, and the fact that despite these differences, often it is the struggle to get recognition of the severity of our sickness and the treatment we need that is universal and gives us far more in common than separates us.

One thought on “Guest Post: Hyperemesis Gravidarum Across the Pond

  1. So surprising, but recently I’ve been feeling my first PTSD 5 years after HG (and the birth of my healthy & lovely girl). This of course is all due to the current media buzz around HG. I knew I would never, ever want to be pregnant again, so after a healthy delivery, I moved on from HG w a sigh of relief. Thanks very much for your writing. I find it helpful, and it’s wonderful to see HG facts in blog form. Thank goodness as well for the HER foundation. Recently I’ve been having (age appropriate) conversations w my daughter about HG. I can’t stand that someday she may go through what I did…


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