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27-09-2011 | Psychology | Article

Extreme morning sickness linked to mood disorders in offspring


Free abstract

MedWire News: Children born to women who experienced a severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) during pregnancy are at increased risk for mood disorders and anxiety in adulthood, US research suggests.

Writing in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, Marlena Fejzo (University of Southern California, Los Angeles) and team explain that "HG, severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, is characterized by long-term maternal stress, undernutrition and dehydration."

They add: "While maternal stress and malnutrition of pregnancy are linked to poor neonatal outcome and associated with poor adult health, long-term outcome of fetal exposure to HG has never been explored."

To address this, the team surveyed 150 women with HG who reported on the emotional and behavioral histories of their siblings. Of the respondents, 55 had mothers who also suffered from the condition, so their siblings were exposed to HG in utero, and 95 had mothers who did not experience HG, and thus their siblings were not exposed.

The team analysed information on a total of 87 siblings from the exposed group and 172 from the non-exposed group (controls).

The researchers found that siblings from the exposed group were significantly more likely to have a psychological or behavioral disorder, particularly depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, than those from the non-exposed group.

Specifically, 16%, 8%, and 7% of the exposed group had depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, respectively, compared with a corresponding 3%, 2%, and 2% of those in the non-exposed group.

Overall, siblings in the exposed group were 3.6 times more likely to have a psychological and behavioral disorder than non-exposed siblings.

Fejzo and colleagues conclude: "HG is an understudied and undertreated condition of pregnancy that can result in not only short-term maternal physical and mental health problems but also potentially lifelong consequences to the exposed fetus."

By Mark Cowen

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