A PLANNED pregnancy should be a time of joy, but some women become so ill that their own or their baby’s health is placed in danger.

Lauren Bignell, of Boscombe in Bournemouth, lost her first child because of a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum – severe sickness in pregnancy – or HG for short.

During her second pregnancy, she was bedridden and throwing up for weeks before going on to give birth to daughter Phoebe in May.

She set up a Facebook group to communicate with other sufferers, and has been overwhelmed by the response.

“I thought about nine people would join but it’s growing every day. It’s out of control,” said Lauren, 27.

“I get contacted from all over the world. I think it’s a big problem. One girl lost four stone, although she had nothing to lose, and had organ failure. Some women have stillborn babies.

“Lots of girls have been forced into termination because they’re not being given enough help or support. Thirty per cent lose a child to it.”

Lauren has now been appointed Dorset team leader for the Pregnancy Sickness Support Trust charity. Part of her role is to recruit volunteers to become a lifeline for women who have been, or are still being, affected by HG. “I’m trying to raise awareness and find more people that we can research. We have a set questionnaire for people who have had HG to try and find a correlation,” she added.

Lauren’s first pregnancy, when she was 21, ended at about six weeks.

“At the time, I didn’t know what the condition was and had never heard of it. I lost 1 stone 7lbs in five weeks and was unconscious in the bath.

“In my second pregnancy, I was about four weeks in when it really kicked off.

“You don’t just throw up – it feels like a mixture of food poisoning and motion sickness. Even moving your head will make you feel ill.”

The condition also makes women hypersensitive to smells they had previously found innocuous or pleasant.

“You get certain triggers – the smell of your partner, other children, washing powder. You can smell things you wouldn’t normally be able to smell,” explained Lauren.

She had to sleep in the attic with the window wide open during the winter. “It was freezing, but I couldn’t smell anything.

“It’s very isolating. You’re just lying there. I couldn’t hold down fluids or food and lost about two stone in two months, which puts a lot of strain on your organs. I had to throw out all the bedding – I couldn’t look at it.”

Lauren ended up losing a tooth because of the illness.

“You’re vomiting stomach acid, which rots the teeth. Toothpaste will make you sick, so will the action of brushing your teeth and you can’t use mouth wash.”

She also became extremely weak. “I was skeletal. I was weeing into a pot by my bed. I couldn’t walk.

“I knew as long as I kept hydrated, the baby would take nutrients from me. At one point I knew I had nothing much to give and I had to try to keep food down.”

About 18 weeks into the pregnancy, she began eating small amounts of almonds, then olives.

“I was starting to sit on the edge of the bed once or twice a day. When I had built up sitting, I would walk to the end of the room.

“Downstairs made me feel so sick because the smell was different. I sat downstairs for an hour but I didn’t go outside the house for three months.

“A friend took me outside and I puked everywhere. After that I was so panicky about going out that I developed agoraphobia.”

Lauren did not feel normal again until seven months into the pregnancy. By then, she was making up for lost time.

“I couldn’t stop eating. I was huge by the end,” she recalled.

Some women continue being sick for longer.

“A few of the girls have been throwing up during labour and for two weeks afterwards,” said Lauren.

Although she and her husband have a beautiful, healthy baby, Lauren is adamant that she will never have another child.

• For help with HG, ring the Pregnancy Sickness Support Trust on 02476 382020 or email info@ pregnancysicknesssupport. org.uk