Hyperemesis gravidarum linked to depression, suggests Imperial College study

on 15 October 2020

A study by researchers at London Imperial College and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has found that hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) can cause depression in some women.

The study found that nearly half of women with hyperemesis gravidarum suffered antenatal depression and nearly 30% had postnatal depression.

Specialist Registrar in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Lead Author of the study, Dr Nicola Mitchell-Jones, said: “Our study shows that women with HG [hyperemesis gravidarum] are around eight times more likely to suffer antenatal depression and four times more likely to have postnatal depression.

“Some women in the study even had thoughts of self-harm while suffering HG. These figures are shocking and should be reflected in the treatment the 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.”

214 women across three London NHS hospitals were recruited for the study.

Half of these women were admitted to hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum and a similar sized control group without significant nausea or vomiting were recruited through a midwifery-led antenatal clinic.

None of the subjects were treated for mental health conditions within the last year and were assessed for their psychological wellbeing in the first trimester of pregnancy and six weeks after childbirth.

Of the women with hyperemesis gravidarum, 49% experienced depression during pregnancy compared with 6% of women in the control group.

7% of the control group had postnatal depression in comparison to 29% of women with hyperemesis gravidarum.

Hyperemesis gravidarum affects around 1-2% of pregnant women in the UK and is one of the most common reasons for hospitalisation during pregnancy.

The study ‘Association between hyperemesis gravidarum and psychological symptoms, psychological outcomes and infant bonding: a two-point prospective case-control multicentre survey study in an inner city setting’ was published in the BMJ Open and can be found here.