A termination under conscious sedation for hyperemisis

By anonymous on 14/12/2010
united kingdom surgical abortion

I had a termination at 7 weeks due to the crippling effects of hyperemesis[1]

My partner and I discovered that I was pregnant towards the end of August 2008 a month after returning from a caravan holiday in the Malvern Hills. At first, when my period was a few days late I really didn't think it would be a possibility that I would be pregnant as we were always careful.

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It was a huge surprise to both of us when the test was positive

My partner seemed much more calm about it, but I was thrown into a panic as we were getting married the following year and it was all happening in the wrong order. Also, we were struggling financially as it was with (modest) wedding preparations.

To say I was happy about it would have been a lie, but I wasn't given the opportunity to get used to the idea either as within about 24 hours of finding out I was pregnant, I started to get very ill indeed.

Within no time, I was literally living in the bathroom with my head down the toilet throwing up. I was unable to eat or drink anything at all - not even a small sip of water would stay down. I was constantly brushing my teeth to try and freshen my breath but that would only last a few seconds before I would be retching again. It got so painful as there was nothing to come up - my stomach was so sore, my throat was burning from the acid in my stomach and my head was constantly pounding.

I wanted to die

I knew that this wasn't normal, but I didn't know what it was. I thought I had some terrible illness that wasn't even related to my pregnancy - cancer? My mind feared the worst.

I went to the doctor's (armed with a bucket to throw up in) to get some advice with my partner. Unfortunately, the doctor we saw was very unsympathetic and ignorant of the (still unknown to us) condition. There was no mention of hyperemesis let alone any treatment available to alleviate the symptoms. I left the surgery feeling helpless and more desperate than when I had gone in. All the doctor gave me was a prescription for Gaviscon - a treatment for indigestion!

My illness continued to get worse and worse and eventually I had to be admitted to hospital. Now, I don't really remember much about what happened next as I was in so much pain that I think I almost passed out, but my husband has told me the following account.

I was given an anti-sickness injection to see if that would control the vomiting but unfortunately, that didn't work and I continued to throw up every few seconds. The hospital staff were really concerned about me as I was dangerously dehydrated and they needed to get fluid into me ASAP.

The problem was because I was so severely dehydrated my veins had collapsed and they were unable to get a vein to put in a drip. My husband recalls that I was like a human pin cushion as various members of hospital staff desperately tried to get a vein.

In the end, an anaesthetist had to be called up from theatre to get the job done at which point my husband was thinking all sorts of things - was I going to need an operation?

Eventually, I was hooked up to a drip and fluids began to hydrate me. However, I was still being sick so they injected more (stronger) anti-sickness drugs straight into the drip, but again they did nothing to relieve my nausea and sickness, so even more powerful drugs were fed through the drip until they had administered the most powerful anti-sickness drugs they had. I did eventually have a brief break from the sickness as I began to hydrate and the drugs started to take the edge off things.

My partner in that time had gone to his parents to explain what was happening and he also called my parents. He had to go to his work and explain that he would need time off. He was beside himself with worry, as at this stage we still didn't know what on earth was wrong with me - nobody had bothered to tell us.

Once the drugs had worn off the illness came back with a vengeance and more drugs had to be administered. When I was feeling slightly better again, I was discharged and went home with anti-sickness tablets. Unfortunately, these tablets were ineffective and the whole thing started again - and I was admitted to hospital and put on a drip for the second time.

Whilst we were at home, we decided that we could no longer go on like this and that the only option would be a termination, so we booked an appointment with the doctor again.

This time we said that we wanted him to refer us for an abortion on the NHS. His response was that I wouldn't be seen as a priority as women who wait until the last minute are seen first and that I would be looking at waiting up to another 8 weeks before being considered.

I was mortified - the thought of going on for another minute feeling like this was driving me to suicidal thoughts, let alone another 8 weeks. I wanted to die. He said our only option if we wanted to get it done sooner would be to go privately. So, again we left the surgery desperate and hopeless.

My sister had found a clinic in Manchester that did private terminations and arranged an appointment for us for a week's time to have a termination under conscious sedation. The thought of going another week feeling this ill was so daunting and it felt more like a year than a week, but eventually, that day arrived and we made the 3½ hour journey to Manchester, bucket-in-lap.

The clinic itself was very business-like in its manner. I was put in a crowded waiting area with other women and their families then called to another room where my partner wasn't allowed. Here, I had to fill in a form and then go for a scan.

I didn't look at the screen

The woman confirmed that I was about 7 weeks gone. After sitting in another waiting area alone for some time I was eventually called into another room where there were several women waiting to go through for the procedure.

When I was called through I was told to strip from the waist and wear a large blue paper towel to cover up until I was on the operating table.

When it was my turn I got onto the table and the doctor jokingly said here comes the vodka and gin as he injected the anaesthetic into my vein. I blacked out for a few seconds and the next thing I remember I was sobbing and being lead to the post-procedure area.

I sat numb and stared around at the other girls in the room and wanted to scream that I didn't belong here - that I wasn't here simply because I didn't want to keep my baby, but that I was so ill, I had no choice. I felt they would all be judging me the same way that I was judging them.

The people at the clinic were so impersonal

After being reunited with my partner at the reception all they said was "that will be £500 please". The whole experience was awful - like a conveyor belt. No care, just business as usual for them.

On the way home I was sick - not sure if that was the hyperemesis still or the effects of the anaesthetic. We both said very little and I didn't feel relieved at all - I felt numb and alone.

Now, two years on I am seeking counselling for the first time (I wasn't offered any at the time) and beginning to deal with some of the issues that I have been storing up since the abortion. I realise that my overwhelming emotion is one of anger - anger towards the doctor we saw and the fact he withheld information from me most notably the fact that we could have gone to the family planning centre in Glasgow and self-referred for a termination on the NHS. But the most painful anger that I have to deal with is that the option of having children with my husband has now gone.

Terms mentioned in this story

  1. Hyperemesis gravidarum

    Most pregnant women (around 7 out of 10) experience nausea and/or vomiting (not necessarily just in the morning) however it usually subsides by around week 14 of pregnancy although it can last longer.

    Some women though, it's thought around 1%, experience excessive nausea and vomiting and might be sick many times in a single day, being unable to keep food or drink down - this condition is known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), and often needs hospital treatment.

    Sources (open in a new tab/window):

Editor's comment

I am so sorry that you went through such a terrible experience. Hyperemesis in pregnancy is a very unpleasant condition and often not very well understood or explained. Women who experience it often feel desperate and depressed at the prospect of a possible 9 months. I can understand your anger at the lack of understanding and misinformation from a health professional.

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