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Your Life daily: The doctors who take pregnancy sickness seriously; Its Mums' Week in your Telegraph FOR pregnant women, morning sickness is regarded as an unavoidable hazard. But for some the sickness and vomiting can be disabling - and they are suffering in silence. Now two doctors from Nuneaton who set up a charity for pregnant women are hoping to change this.

Byline: KAREN HAMBRIDGE reports.

FOR SOME women the sickness they experience during pregnancy is so awful they seriously consider abortion.

Alarmingly, a minority actually do have terminations because the nausea and vomiting is so overwhelming they simply cannot function.

While it might happen rarely, the fact that it happens at all is one of the reasons Dr Tony Barnie-Adshead and colleague Dr Roger Gadsby set up their charity, Pregnancy Sickness Support.

The doctors, who worked together at the Red Roofs practice in Coton Road, Nuneaton, before Tony retired 15 years ago, established the concern in 2002 to offer support and information to pregnant women.

It's a small charity, they give their time free, have just one paid admin employee and run the whole operation on a shoestring budget of about pounds 3,000.

While fellow medics, the doctors admit, generally don't take pregnancy sickness seriously, they are keen on investigating its causes and offering solutions.

Tony, aged 73, who lives with his wife Rosemary in Whitestone, Nuneaton, said: "People refer to it as morning sickness which is entirely untrue and trivialises the condition.

"Some women never have it and because it is a temporary thing it doesn't get taken seriously.

"I'm afraid to say doctors tend to fob women off, but some women feel so awful they don't want to go anywhere and they may just want to lie down.

"It puts a strain on all areas of their life, if they have other children, and with their partner."

Tony's interest in the subject stretches back 30 years to the late 60s when a patient came to him in desperation because of the severe sickness she was suffering.

She said she felt so rotten she was considering not having any more children.

When Tony looked into the condition he found it was under-researched, not well described and under-appreciated.

In 1979, Roger Gadsby joined the practice and Tony found a willing research partner.

They got funding to do a study, describing the pregnancy sickness in 363 women, who all delivered healthy babies.

This was published in 1993 and remains unique in world literature on the subject.

A few years later the germ of an idea for a charity was planted when Roger, aged 57 who lives in Exhall with wife, Pam, a practice nurse, was invited to Toronto to the first International Conference on Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy.

He found in Canada the condition was taken much more seriously.

Roger, who has two grown-up children and one grandchild, said: "Here in Britain many women are simply told to get on with things because the sickness is part of pregnancy, there's nothing you can do about it and it will pass.

"But that's no help to women who feel quite isolated and distressed about what is happening to them."

The two doctors began raising funds and the charity was registered in 2002. There is a website and a telephone helpline where women can leave a message and a midwife will call them back and offer information and support.

Information can be downloaded from the website or obtained in leaflet form.

Their research has found despite the condition being considered unimportant, one in 150 women is actually admitted to hospital for rehydration therapy because their vomiting has been so extreme they have become seriously ill.

One woman they interviewed said she had been sick 240 times during her pregnancy.

"People just do not realise the magnitude," said Roger. "Up until the late 1930s there were recorded deaths from pregnancy sickness.

"The author Charlotte Bronte wrote frequent letters when she was pregnant describing her symptoms, saying she would strain until her vomit was mixed with blood."

Lisa's story

WHEN Lisa Waller started throwing up every morning and found she could hardly keep any food down she knew she was pregnant.

For Lisa the sickness came on very early in both her pregnancies and she suffered until the 20-week mark each time.

The 35-year-old who is married to James, aged 34, an accountant, found she felt nauseous all day and it was a struggle to eat.

During her first pregnancy she was still working but was forced to take time off because she felt so poorly.

"I worked in IT in quite a male-dominated environment and I got no sympathy at all," said Lisa, who is now a full-time mum to Ruby, five, and Fleur, five months.

"During the time I was pregnant I had a performance review and I was told I probably wouldn't get a bonus because of my sickness absence record."

It was not only her employers who gave her short shrift either. Health professionals were equally unsympathetic.

"Obviously I needed to get sick notes from the doctor and the attitude was 'well it's only a bit of morning sickness'.

"In my experience there was very little support from any health professional and it was quite upsetting."

For Lisa there was the added worry that she was not taking in enough nutrients for the growing baby.

"Anything I could keep down was a bonus, even if it was something that wasn't particularly healthy."

Feeling anxious Lisa began trawling the internet then found Pregnancy Sickness Support.

"It was a relief because I knew then other women go through the same thing and I realised there was light at the end of the tunnel."

She added: "I think the charity is a step in the right direction because there is someone available who is sympathetic, who knows what you are going through and doesn't think you're a hypochondriac."

Nicola's story

NICOLA BAKER was eight weeks pregnant when she first started suffering from sickness.

And when it began she was not prepared for how terrible it would make her feel.

In fact it came as such a shock she had to take a week off from her job at Birmingham Airport.

Nicola, from New Arley, just outside Nuneaton, said: "It was a real shock to the system."

And like so many other women, her symptoms were not confined to the morning. She would feel nauseous on waking and if she had a drink would be unable to keep it down.

During the remainder of the day she would continue feeling nauseous - then by about 3pm the nausea would wear off a little and she was able to eat.

But sometimes the feeling would return at night.

"I could never tell how it would be from one day to the next," said Nicola, who is married to Stephen, aged 32, who works in IT support.

The problem lasted for about 10 weeks, gradually easing until eventually the nausea disappeared.

Now a full-time mum to two-year-old Ella and expecting her second baby in July Nicola has again been through the mill sickness wise and this time it has been more challenging.

"When I was pregnant with Ella I was still working and I really only had myself to think about," explained Nicola. "With my second pregnancy obviously I had Ella to look after and it was more difficult.

"The attitude of people seemed to be 'oh, it will pass' which is not that helpful when you are feeling so bad.

"Now I know more mums and some of them have talked about sickness, but because it's temporary and it varies from one woman to the next it does kind of get forgotten about."

She came across the Pregnancy Sickness Support trust and was able to obtain useful information from the charity's leaflets.

"I think health professionals should take the sickness more seriously. You don't get a lot of sympathy."

The legacy of the thalidomide drug

FFIVE decades after the drug thalidomide caused an international scandal it's legacy is still being felt.

Women remain understandably anxious about taking any kind of drug during pregnancy, doctors are nervous about prescribing and pharmaceutical companies are worried about lawsuits.

Thalidomide was used by pregnant women to ease sleep and pregnancy sickness problems.

But side effects caused more than 400 disabled babies to be born in the UK in the late 50s and early 60s and the drug was withdrawn.

Dr Roger Gadsby, one of the founders of Pregnancy Sickness Support, said: "Before thalidomide people were not aware that drugs could damage babies.

"It has left a legacy that women do not want to take drugs in pregnancy and doctors do not want to prescribe them if it can be avoided."

For more information on treatments, on sickness in pregnancy in general and information on how to help yourself if you are suffering visit www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org or phone 024 7638 2020.

Fact File - PREGNANCY SICKNESS

NAUSEA and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) affects 70 per cent of pregnant women.

ABOUT 45 per cent of pregnant women suffer from nausea with vomiting while an additional 25 per cent suffer with nausea only.

85 per cent of women have two episodes of nausea per day and 55 per cent have three or more.

EATING actually reduces the nausea of NVP in 50 per cent of women.

30 per cent of pregnant women in paid employment need time off work due to NVP.

ONE in 150 pregnant women will need to be admitted to hospital because they have hyperemesis gravidarum - severe pregnancy sickness.

CAPTION(S):

DS280407DOCT1; RN300407FEAT1; NAUSEOUS TIMES... Lisa Waller with five-month-old Fleur and Ruby, aged five.; MB300407PREG4; TOUGH PREGNANCY... Nicola Baker with daughter Ella, aged two, and (left) doctors Roger Gadsby and Tony Barnie-Adshead who set up a charity to help women suffering from pregnancy sickness. Pictures by Matt Barron, Darryl Smith and Richard Nelmes
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 5, 2007
Words:1593
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