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Despite what the media refers to as "Kate's relapse," the fact is hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), the pregnancy disorder that recently put the Duchess of Cambridge in the hospital, doesn't magically disappear after one trip to the emergency room.
As it stands, the only known cure for HG is abortion. I'm not trying to be inflammatory, but the one thing guaranteed to end the torment of excessive nausea, vomiting and resulting dehydration that HG brings, is to not be pregnant anymore.
For many women, and their families, that means quietly enduring 8 months of living hell. For others – 10 percent, according to the Hyperemesis Research Foundation – it means terminating a much-wanted pregnancy.
With this in mind, a neurologist out of the University of Buffalo named Thomas Guttusso Jr., has been experimenting with Gabapentin, an anti-seizure, anti-pain drug commonly given to cancer patients who are sickened by chemotherapy.
"I became interested in this drug for hyperemesis gravidarum (an extreme form of morning sickness) because I saw how effective it appeared to be in treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in patients who had failed treatment with conventional anti-emetics," says Guttuso. Anti-emetics are drugs currently approved for treating nausea and vomiting.
In a pilot study that included 7 pregnant women who suffered from HG and hadn't responded to commonly-prescribed anti-emetic drugs like Zofran and Phenergen, all of the women showed rapid signs of improvement after taking Gabapentin.
"Within two hours of taking the first pill, most of the patients were feeling much better and several were able to start eating and drinking again. It was a pretty amazing thing to see."
After two weeks on the drug all seven women saw an average of 94 percent reduction in vomiting and were eating and drinking as normal again. As with anti-emetic treatments, most had to take the drug into the 20th week of pregnancy before they could stop taking it altogether.
When I had HG, I initially didn't respond to the drugs I was given. Eventually I responded to a combination of Zofran and Phenergan, but it took about eight weeks before I could eat and drink like a normal person again.
The safety of Gabapentin is still wanting further research before we celebrate it as a miracle cure. When two of the women from Dr. Guttuso's study gave birth to babies with congenital defects, the FDA put the study on hold. After determining that the rate of defects resulting from this and other studies mimicked that of the general population, Guttuso's study was given the green light to resume.
According to the press release, two of the women in Guttuso's study were planning to have abortions, one of which was scheduled for the day after the first day of the study. She reportedly felt such relief after one dose she cancelled and successfully carried the baby to term.
That's a happy ending. I hope this drug turns out to be the miracle too many women so badly need to help them endure the suffering of hyperemesis gravidarum.
Photo Credit: Zak Hussein/INFphoto.com
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.