I was hospitalized with a hemiplegic migraine at 10 weeks pregnant. It imitates a stroke, which doctors thought I was having, and I lost the ability to communicate for 18 hours. I couldn’t follow directions, talk, or understand the very concept of words. My mind was blank when I was asked questions. I’d try to think, then shake my head. There was nothing there. After an emergency MRI told everyone it wasn’t a stroke, I was given paracetamol for my blinding pain. My husband doesn’t even bother with paracetamol when he’s hungover. It’s Nurofen as a minimum.
Not many drugs are safe for pregnant women, but when I say safe, what I mean is known to be safe. The majority of drug companies pass on the responsibility for the safety of their drugs to the NHS and tell pregnant women to ask their GPs before taking them. The immediate defence is ‘But you can’t test drugs on pregnant women’. I get it. No-one wants to take a drug that might deform the growth of their unborn child. But there must be another way to test the safety of drugs on unborn babies. Isn’t science all about overcoming challenges and barriers and finding ways around problems? Flying to the moon isn’t easy. Scientists managed it. MRI machines are stonkingly impressive and they also exist. Start to breakdown the most everyday, for example cars, and you realise they are feats of science – we sit in a seat, push a lever and propel forwards. No matter how many times an engine is explained to me, I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand how the science works. That’s what makes science so impressive – scientists can figure out the seemingly impossible.
Pregnant women are a large and consistent market. We have more aches and pains than the average Joe and yet we’re told, ‘Don’t worry, your pain is normal, it will pass. Don’t take drugs. Think of the child’. Worse, our aches and pains are undermined with trivial titles. I had ‘morning sickness’ for the first 15 weeks. Along with 80% of women, I felt nauseous and dizzy. Even though I wasn’t actually sick, it was horrendous. Still, the NHS recommends taking ginger biscuits to help with morning sickness. Despite being willing to pay, pregnant women’s needs don’t seem to matter. It’s more important to invent another pill for hay fever, that national killer, or man flu. I’d like to hear hay fever or man flu suffers be told ‘don’t worry, your pain is normal and will pass’. Then we can all sit with our brave faces on and suffer silently.