2 min read
15 Oct

/blog/morning-sickness-and-postnatal-depressionAlmost 50% of women who experience hyperemesis gravidarum, or extreme morning sickness, develop depression while pregnant. 30% report symptoms of postnatal depression. 

Severe morning sickness, known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), is a debilitating condition that affects around 35-40 percent of pregnant women globally. Far more serious than ‘normal’ morning sickness, it is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization during pregnancy and can continue right up until birth. Women can be bed-bound for weeks on end, suffer dehydration and weight loss and are often unable to work or care for other children they have.

The study, by researchers from Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, found that nearly half of women with HG suffered antenatal depression and nearly 30 percent had postnatal depression. In women without the condition, just six percent experienced antenatal depression and seven percent suffered postnatal depression. The findings are published today in BMJ Open.

Dr. Nicola Mitchell-Jones, is a specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynecology and lead author of the study,  this Doctor believes the psychological impact of the condition is not taken seriously enough by both healthcare professionals and the wider public.

This study shows that women with HG are around eight times more likely to suffer antenatal depression and four times more likely to have postnatal depression,” she says. “Some women in the study even had thoughts of self-harm whilst suffering HG. These figures are shocking and should be reflected in the treatment women receive. We need to do much more than simply treat the physical symptoms of HG; assessment for mental health support should also be routine for any woman with the condition.”

A current study from Imperial College also recruited 214 women across three London hospitals—Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital (both part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust)—in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Half were recruited on admission to hospital with symptoms of HG. A similar size control group, without significant nausea or vomiting, were recruited through a midwifery-led antenatal clinic. Mental health condition of the women was normal so none of the study participants was been treated for mental health conditions in the past year. The women were assessed for their psychological wellbeing in the first trimester of pregnancy and six weeks after the birth.

Of the women with HG, 49 percent experienced depression during pregnancy compared to just six percent in the control group. Just seven percent of the control group had postnatal depression, compared to 29 percent in the group with HG. Half of the women with HG were forced to take four or more weeks off work during or after pregnancy. 

The study however found no direct link between HG and maternal-infant bonding, other research has shown that depression can have a negative effect on this bond. Sadly, eight women with HG recruited to the study terminated their pregnancies, despite originally expressing a desire to keep the baby.

During comparison for previous researches on related depression impact on pregnant women undertaken by Neuroleak research Team, we cannot possibly conclude that HG was the main reason for those decisions for termination of pregnancy, but it may certainly have played a role according to  Dr. Mitchell-Jones, a medical expert.