Severe morning sickness linked to depression before and after birth

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  • Severe morning sickness is one of the most common reasons for hospitalisation during pregnancy
  • Women with severe morning sickness are about eight times more likely to suffer depression before giving birth
  • Many healthcare providers, however, don't take the mental health impact of severe morning sickness seriously enough


Women who suffer severe morning sickness may have a higher risk of depression during and after pregnancy, according to a new British study.

It enrolled 214 women in London during the first trimester of pregnancy. Half had severe morning sickness; half did not.

None had been treated for mental health conditions during the previous year.

The women's mental health was assessed in their first trimester and six weeks after giving birth.

Nearly half of the women with severe morning sickness had depression in the first trimester and nearly 30% had depression after delivery.

Among the women without morning sickness, the rates were 6% and 7%, respectively.

Severe nausea with persistent vomiting

Half of the women with severe morning sickness had to take four or more weeks off work during or after pregnancy, according to findings published in the journal BMJ Open.

Severe morning sickness, also known as hyperemesis gravidarum, is one of the most common reasons for hospitalisation during pregnancy.

Women with the condition are often severely nauseous with persistent vomiting.

They can be bedridden for weeks, suffer dehydration and weight loss, and often can't work or care for their other children.

But lead author Dr Nicola Mitchell-Jones, a specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at Imperial College London, said many healthcare providers don't take the mental health impact of severe morning sickness seriously enough.

Women with severe morning sickness are about eight times more likely to suffer depression before giving birth and four times more likely to be depressed afterwards, she said.

"Some women in the study even had thoughts of self-harm whilst suffering HG [hyperemesis gravidarum]," Mitchell-Jones said in a college news release.

"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."

READ | What's the difference between postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression

READ | 'Morning sickness' doesn't stick to the a.m., study confirms

Image credit: Viviana Rishe, Unsplash

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