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Why Aren’t There Better Treatments For Pregnant Women?

What do all of these conditions have in common? Morning sickness, eclampsia and pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes? They all affect pregnant women, no-one knows what causes them, and medical science has no way to medicate or treat them.

Morning sickness is normal and some doctors believe it is a sign of a healthy pregnancy, it’s unpleasant for many, and debilitating for some. Morning sickness affects around 80% of pregnant women, with around 10% having their lives seriously affected by their morning sickness, and many women suffer throughout their pregnancies. The only cure is time, and for mothers who suffer all through their pregnancies, is delivering the baby.

Pre-eclampsia, dangerously high blood pressure in a pregnant woman, is a very serious condition, affecting around 5% of pregnant women, and can be fatal to mother and baby. The disease can be managed somewhat, but the only cure is to deliver the baby.

Gestational diabetes, GD, affects about 8% of mothers, and while it can be managed to some extent with diet, exercise, and insulin treatments in some cases, mothers and babies with GD are at risk of complications and birth defects. The only cure is to deliver the baby.

The only cure is to deliver the baby? Have we moved on from medieval times? When millions of people suffer worldwide from non-pregnancy high blood pressure and diabetes, and drug companies are spending billions of dollars on research and bringing out new drugs to treat them, why is there next-to-nothing for pregnant women?

In defense of the researchers and doctors, care and treatment for pregnant women has improved drastically in the last generation.

And to bring a new drug to the market, it must be tested on real patients, and pregnant women are understandably reluctant to try experimental drugs. Everyone has heard of the horrific birth defects caused by Thalidomide. This untested-on-pregnant-women drug was prescribed to thousands of women as a treatment for morning sickness in the 1950s and 1960s.

Still, as we know, it’s 2008. Medical science is light years ahead of where it was in the era of Thalidomide, in the 1950s.

So why are common, and serious conditions, like pre-eclampsia and GD, so poorly understood? Why is research into them so underfunded? And why are there no effective treatments for them today?

I was inspired to write this post by this article in USA Today.

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