For most women, one of the telltale signs that they're most likely pregnant is morning sickness. After all, no one suddenly starts throwing up without there being an actual reason for doing so. While morning sickness may be nothing more than a nuisance for most, other women are stuck with severe morning sickness instead. It's called hyperemesis gravidarum, and it makes about five percent of pregnancies it affects unbearable.
For women stuck with hyperemesis gravidarum, it's not just being constantly sick that you should be worried about. A recent study came out that links severe morning sickness with a higher risk of autism in your unborn child. Specifically, a baby's risk of diagnosis with autism spectrum disorder is 53 percent.
"This study is important because it suggests that children born to women with hyperemesis may be at an increased risk of autism. Awareness of this association may create the opportunity for earlier diagnosis and intervention in children at risk of autism," explained Darios Getahun, MD, Ph.D. of Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation. She was the lead author of this study, which was published in the American Journal of Perinatology.
In order to reach the aforementioned conclusion, researchers reviewed the electronic health records of almost 500 000 pregnant women and their children between 1991 and 2014 at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. Women who had hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy were compared to those who didn't have this condition. This led to the link found between hyperemesis gravidarum and an increased risk of autism for children.
There were many other findings discovered during this study. A diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum during either the first or second trimester held the aforementioned increased risk of autism. However, the link wasn't found in women in their third trimester who were diagnosed with this form of severe morning sickness. The link between the two was also associated with how severe the woman's hyperemesis gravidarum was. The link of hyperemesis gravidarum to children being diagnosed with autism was more likely in girls than it is for boys. It's also more likely for white and Hispanic children than either black or Pacific Islander children. Finally, there weren't any links to autism risk with any medications that treat hyperemesis gravidarum.
It's said that all of these results are consistent with a hypothesis that says pregnant women who have hyperemesis gravidarum also suffer from poor nutritional intake. That consequently leads to potential long-term neurodevelopment impairment in affected children. Whether other factors such as smoking or other medications also play a role remains a mystery, meaning that more research will need to be one in order to get those answers.