Push to help women with sickening pregnancy condition
WHEN Jessica Anderson fell pregnant a hellish nightmare began.
There was no warm glow in her skin and no time to bask in compliments from friends on how big her belly had become.
Instead Jessica lay in bed month after month vomiting into a bag, clinging to hope the sickness might go away, desperately trying to make it through the next hour.
Throughout the pregnancy she lost 25 kilos.
Despite barely being able to eat, Jessica vomited so much she broke her oesophagus and the blood vessels in her eyes popped.
The Redbank Plains woman's rare condition is among the 1% of pregnancies in Australia, where mothers suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, commonly known as excessive morning sickness.
"When we say it's like we nearly died, that's not exaggerating," Jessica said.
"I didn't eat or drink for seven months. For the first four months I lived off one apple a day. That was eaten slowly and I vomited out.
"I changed to mango when I was sick of apple.
"You're just trying to get through the hour or the next minute - to think you are going to be pregnant for nine months. A lot of women terminate. I lost all my muscle mass and had to learn to stand up again."
While she was pregnant, Jessica got married. Although she managed to walk down the aisle, she spent the rest of the ceremony in a wheelchair because she was too weak to stand.
On top of the emotional and physical burden, Jessica and her husband had to cope with the financial strain of forking out thousands of dollars for a medication called ondasetron, that offered some relief from the vomiting.
Now, she and 53,000 other women who have signed a petition, are calling for the Australian Government to make the medication more affordable by adding it to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
"It cost us about $2000 and I had my baby early at 28 weeks (due to an unrelated medical condition)," Jessica said.
"I was on a bunch of medication and there were lots of doctors and hospital visits too, so it all stacks up.
"Women who have it can't work - they can't do anything. It was a financial strain on our family."
But making ondasetron available to pregnant women at a discounted price is not that easy.
It's a decision for the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee which won't consider the matter unless a manufacturer of ondasetron requests it.
A spokesperson for the Federal Health Department confirmed ondansetron was already subsidized for the prevention of nausea for patients who are recovering from surgery and those undergoing ctitixoc therapy and radiotherapy.
According to the spokesperson there are also concerns about whether or not the drug, which is not recommended for use during pregnancy, is safe for unborn babies - although it is commonly used in the medical profession.
"Safety of use in pregnancy is important to demonstrate, given the use of drugs in the past, such as thalidomide to treat morning sickness in pregnant women caused around 10,000 children worldwide to be born with significant birth deformities," the Federal Health Department spokesperson said.
"Should one of the sponsors of ondansetron wish to pursue a PBS listing for the medicine's use for the treatment of nausea in pregnant women, an application to the TGA (by one of the manufacturers) to register the medicine for use in the treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum is a necessary first step."
Hormones blamed for 'extreme morning sickness'
HORMONES are thought to be responsible for a rare medical condition that causes women to suffer long-term and debilitating nausea.
During her 14 years on the job, Ipswich midwife Liz Milroy has treated many women suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, known as extreme morning sickness.
Ipswich Hospital worker Ms Milroy said the medication ondansetron was frequently used to treat women suffering from the condition and was considered safe.
"Hyperemesis Gravidarum is rare but for the women who go through it there is a huge impact socially, emotionally and financially," Ms Milroy said.
"People do consider terminating their pregnancy. It's a really horrendous condition.
"We're not 100 per cent sure what causes it and why it affects some and not others but we believe it is related to rapidly rising beta HCG, a hormone released by the placenta.
Levels are high when pregnancy starts."
She said women carrying twins or triplets were more likely to experience Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which affects 1 per cent of pregnancies in the western world.