12th May, 2021

Coventry mum who nearly died from pregnancy sickness urges other mothers to take part in HG study

A COVENTRY mum who was severely malnourished due to a pregnancy sickness condition has spoken about her ordeal in a bid to get more expectant mothers to take part in a new study by the University of Plymouth.

Sarah Titmus had hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) in both of her pregnancies, experiencing severe and constant vomiting and nausea.

From seven weeks pregnant, she could not even keep a sip of water down. Her ordeal saw her hospitalised twice – and, on one occasion, her blood potassium levels had dropped (a state known as hypokalemia) to such a level that a doctor warned her she might not wake up in the morning without intensive care support.

She said: “I lost four-stone in weight and was told I was close to death.

“Fortunately both my daughters appear to be healthy and developing normally, but it’s a worry that the severe symptoms I suffered could have lifelong impacts for them and there isn’t enough knowledge about that.

“It was like having a 24-hour sickness bug for nine months.”

Now the University of Plymouth, in collaboration with national charity, Pregnancy Sickness Support, is inviting women less than 11 weeks pregnant to take part in a study exploring the nutritional intake and wellbeing of women experiencing severe pregnancy sickness, as well as their pregnancy outcomes.

The NOURISH hopes to identify if, and to what extent, outcomes differ from counterparts experiencing mild to no symptoms.

It will provide vital evidence on the impact of the condition.

Research to date suggests that malnutrition in pregnancy can have immediate and long term effects for the baby but the degree of malnutrition in women with HG has never actually been studied.

As well as looking for women in the first trimester who have HG, the study needs to recruit those in the first trimester with mild to no symptoms.

Dr Kate Maslin, Senior Research Fellow in Maternal and Child Health, said: “There so few studies out there that show who might be affected by HG and how it affects mother and baby.

“We need women with and without the condition to take part and help us provide more evidence on a condition that is so often misunderstood.

“We are especially interested to know more about eating habits as we know that women with severe sickness often struggle to keep down any food or fluids.

“All it involves is keeping a food diary on a phone app and taking part in some online questionnaires– all remote, all doable in your own time.

“We would love to hear from you if you are less than 11 weeks pregnant, over 18 years old and living in the UK.”

Caitlin Dean, Chair of Pregnancy Sickness Support, added: “Around one per cent of people experience HG in pregnancy and, if someone has had it once, they’re much more likely to get it in a second pregnancy.

“Sarah’s experience is sadly not the only one – we deal with calls every day from women trying to live through it. It really is the most debilitating condition at a time that should be happy and exciting.

“For anyone who’s in the early stages of pregnancy, please get involved – do it for the mums of the future to ensure they have as much evidence-based support as possible.”

Sarah added: “The truth is, so many people – health professionals included – don’t understand HG.

“My poor partner was acting as mum and dad to our eldest when I was pregnant with my second, as I was bedbound.

“It can put huge pressure on all the family.

“We need to know more about the long term impacts of the condition, so this research is vital.”

For more information or to sign up to the NOURISH study, click here.

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