Why No Cure For Severe Morning Sickness?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 12 2013 @ 5:44pm

Jessica Grose is disappointed by the lack of interest in treating hyperemesis gravidarum, “otherwise known as unrelenting nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, or the Kate Middleton disease”:

[W]hy is there so little information about a malady that sends around 285,000 women to the hospital every year? Fejzo says that research stalled after the 1950s, when women with severe pregnancy nausea were given thalidomide, which turned out to cause major birth defects. “After that, studies with pregnant women pretty much came to a halt. Drug companies stopped doing research and so did universities.” Even though the thalidomide scandal was more than half a century ago, the research Fejzo does is funded through the Hyperemesis Education Research Foundation, which runs pretty much on donations. She was hoping Kate Middleton’s publicizing of the disease would help the cause, but so far there hasn’t been much movement. “It’s the second leading cause of hospitalization in pregnancy,” Fejzo says, but “it’s just not thought of as a serious problem.”

Could cannabis help?

Dr. Wei-Ni Lin Curry published a first-person account documenting her own use of therapeutic cannabis to alleviate symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by severe nausea and vomiting, malnutrition, and weight loss during pregnancy. (While general nausea and vomiting, colloquially known as ‘morning sickness,’ is experienced by an estimate 70 to 80 percent of all expectant mothers, approximately 1 to 2 percent are struck with the persistent vomiting and wasting associated with HG.) Curry recounts:

“Within two weeks of my daughter’s conception, I became desperately nauseated and vomited throughout the day and night. … I vomited bile of every shade, and soon began retching up blood. … I felt so helpless and distraught that I went to the abortion clinic twice, but both times I left without going through the with procedure. … Finally I decide to try medical cannabis. … Just one to two little puffs at night, and if I needed in the morning, resulted in an entire day of wellness. I went from not eating, not drinking, not functioning, and continually vomiting and bleeding from two orifices to being completely cured. … Not only did the cannabis save my [life] during the duration of my hyperemesis, it saved the life of the child within my womb.”

Most recently, survey data collected by the directors of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society (The VICS) and the BC Compassion Club and published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice reported that cannabis is therapeutic in the treatment of both morning sickness and HG. Of the 84 women who responded to the anonymous questionnaire, 36 said that they had used cannabis intermittently during their pregnancy to treat symptoms of vomiting, nausea, and appetite loss. Of these, 92 percent said that cannabis was “extremely effective” or “effective” in combating their symptoms. Investigators noted that although most women chose to self-administer cannabis by smoking, many (31 percent) also reported consuming hempen edibles, and eight percent reported using cannabis-based oils or tinctures.