Doctors back demands for morning-sickness drug

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Morning sickness should be treated with drugs to prevent the unborn baby's health being endangered by regular vomiting or dehydration in the mother, an international group of doctors says.

Morning sickness should be treated with drugs to prevent the unborn baby's health being endangered by regular vomiting or dehydration in the mother, an international group of doctors says.

Last week, more than 300 doctors in Washington voted for the widespread introduction of a drug called Diclectin, which prevents nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) and allows mothers to lead a "normal daily life" from the beginning of the pregnancy.

The International Federation of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (Figo) conference was told Diclectin has become "the drug of choice" for all pregnant women in Canada and has been used to treat 33 million women in the past 25 years.

It has undergone full clinical trials and has shown no side-effects for the unborn child. It is used for all morning sickness from mild to severe and is about to get approval for use in the United States.

At the Figo conference, British doctors called for it to be approved as soon as possible for use here. Around two-thirds of women in Britain suffer morning sickness, usually beginning in the fourth week and lasting two months. Around 8.6 million work days are lost each year because of it.

There has been much reluctance to give any medication to pregnant mothers following the terrible consequences of the widespread use of Thalidomide in the Sixties when hundreds of children were born with physical defects.

But in around 3 per cent of cases morning sickness is so extreme that women are unable to feed their growing babies because they cannot eat properly and suffer from weight loss and severe dehydration.

They are hospitalised periodically, mainly to prevent dehydration and ensure they get enough nutrients. Research has shown a tiny minority of women, around 50 a year, have morning sickness so badly they seriously consider ending their pregnancy.

Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, professor of obstetrics, midwifery and gynaecology at Derby City General Hospital, who was at the conference, said: "It is an old wives' tale that morning sickness is good for the mother. It does show there are pregnancy hormones in the mother and that the pregnancy is intact and the pregnancy is progressing well.

"But vomiting all day is not good for mothers and some women get it so badly, they are at risk of dehydration and such severe weight loss that they need to be hospitalised. Diclectin has generated a lot of interest."

Dr Roger Gadsby, a GP from Nuneaton and an expert on morning sickness, has been campaigning for Diclectin, which contains two antihistamines and vitamin B6, to be introduced in Britain. He said the medical profession is paranoid because of Thalidomide and there is a fear of giving any pregnant women any medication during the first three months.

"Diclectin certainly has a good safety record," he said. The trial evidence shows that is both safe and effective in treating NVP. It should be available here, there is no need for these women to be suffering."

Debbie Nutter, a 37-year-old nurse of Blackburn, Lancashire, had such bad morning sickness, six weeks into her third pregnancy, that she was admitted to hospital for six days. She lost a stone in weight in a week and was being fed by a drip.

"Morning sickness makes you desperate," she said. "As long as it has been clinically tested I welcome any medication which can ease the terrible condition.

"I went into hospital because I was so desperate. The first four months of my pregnancy were horrendous. I used to wish someone would shoot me because of the pain. There is absolutely no relief. And I knew the next day would be no better. I would be vomiting every day.

"It was terrible - I was so depressed. I couldn't hold any food down. I was even bringing water up. I couldn't sleep - I would be awake at three in the morning vomiting.

"But, of course, any drug would have to be clinically tested and proved to have no side effects.

"It would be great news for all those women who suffer so badly during what should be a pleasurable time."

After 14 weeks of severe morning sickness Mrs Nutter's condition improved but she suffered sickness throughout her pregnancy. Her third child, Sam, is now 13 months old.