It’s understood that if you are one of the one to two percent of pregnant people who experience hyperemesis gravidarum — an extreme form of morning sickness— (HG), you aren’t having a positive mind and body experience. New research on the condition out of Imperial College London (published in BMJ Open) found that there’s a link between severe morning sickness and an increased risk of experiencing depression during and after pregnancy.
Examining the cases of 214 pregnant people in their first trimester from three London hospitals, with half admitted to the hospital due to their HG symptoms, researchers found that 49 percent of the people who had HG reported experiencing depression during their pregnancy (compared to six percent of the group without HG) and post-pregnancy 29 percent of the group with HG reported postnatal depression compared to seven percent in the control group. .
“Our 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,” Dr Nicola Mitchell-Jones, specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynecology and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “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.”
As previously reported, HG’s cause is part of the complicated hormonal changes going on during pregnancy: “Most commonly, it’s thought that the hormonal changes related to pregnancy are responsible for HG,” Temeaka Gray, PsyD, MBA, APRN-BC told SheKnows. “However, this can also be impacted by life circumstances and stress. In early pregnancy, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), estrogen, and progesterone rise.” The effects of extreme weight loss during pregnancy, the inability to get all the nutrients a pregnant person needs and the ways the sickness can affect your body (especially in your mouth and teeth) are all also complications that these patients are likely to encounter — on top of the potential mental health effects.
Mitchell-Jones, who experienced HG during her own pregnancy said that the study is hopefully a step toward finding more proactive ways to support patients dealing with HG both mentally and physically and both during and after their pregnancies.
“Although we can’t say that HG was the main reason for those decisions, it may certainly have played a role which is heart-breaking,” Mitchell-Jones said. “I was in and out of hospital, spent nearly six months in bed — but I was lucky enough to have a supportive and employer and family,” she recalled. “Many women can’t afford that amount of time off work or are stay-at-home mums with young children to care for. Too often their partners, relatives or work colleagues are not providing the support they need because they fail to understand the severity of what these women are going through. We need to educate them, as well as healthcare professionals.”
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