The impact of hyperemesis gravidarum on maternal mental health and maternal-fetal attachment

David McCormack, Geraldine Scott-Heyes, Christopher G McCusker
Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2011, 32 (2): 79-87

BACKGROUND: In addition to physical health risks, it has been postulated that hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) - severe and persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy - can adversely affect maternal mental health and maternal-fetal attachment.

METHODS: A prospective case-control design was used to compare psychological distress, social functioning and maternal-fetal attachment in 32 women with HG compared to 41 matched controls.

RESULTS: Results suggested that while HG compromised some aspects of attachment early in pregnancy (7-16 weeks gestation), this negative effect was clinically small and had faded by follow-up (after 26 weeks gestation). Comparisons did, however, show more significant and persisting psychological distress for those who had HG.

CONCLUSIONS: Pregnant women with HG appear to be at elevated risk of mental health difficulties during pregnancy, even when the symptoms of HG resolve. The development of a targeted intervention specifically designed to treat mental health difficulties associated with HG is recommended.

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