Higher Risk of Autism Linked With Severe Morning Sickness

Shirley Amy
October 16, 2019

The American Journal of Perinatology, recently published research by Kaiser Permanente, indicating that: “children whose pregnant mothers had a severe form of a morning sickness [named hyperemesis gravidarum], were 53% more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder”.

kaiser permanente

The Potential Need For Early Diagnosis & Intervention

Darios Getahun, MD, PhD, the leading study author at The Department of Research and Evaluation in Permanente Southern California, stated: “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”.

Putting the Spotlight on Hyperemesis Gravidarum

This condition is apparent in under 5% of pregnancies. The symptoms include: not being able to keep down fluid and food, as well as overwhelming nausea. The knock-on effect to this condition, can result in insufficient nutrition and dangerous dehydration at the time of pregnancy.

In order to ascertain the degree of association between autism spectrum disorder and hyperemesis gravidarum, the scientists analyzed close to 50,000 electronic health records of pregnant women, and the children they gave birth to at Southern California’s Kaiser Permanente, during the period of 1991 to 2014. The researchers then made a comparison of the boys and girls whose mothers were diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum at the time of pregnancy, to the mothers that did not receive a diagnosis.

Further Findings

These comprise:

  • Hyperemesis gravidarum exposure was linked with an elevated risk of autism when the condition was diagnosed within the 1st & 2nd trimesters of pregnancy; but not in cases when the diagnosis was solely within the third trimester.
  • Despite the severity of the mother’s hyperemesis gravidarum, exposure to the condition was connected to a risk of autism.
  • The link between autism spectrum disorder and hyperemesis gravidarum, was more severe in girls compared to boys, and stronger among Hispanics  and whites, compared to Pacific Islanders and African-Americans.
  • The hyperemesis gravidarum medications which were used to treat the mothers during the analysis period of 1991 to 2014, did not appear to be linked to the risk of autism.

A spokesman stated that these results: “are consistent with the hypothesis that women experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum have poor nutritional intake, which may, in turn lead to potential long-term neuro-development impairment in their children. The study cannot, however, rule out other possible explanations, such as perinatal exposures to some medications and maternal smoking”.

More About Kaiser Permanente

Founded way back in 1945, Kaiser Permanente, which serves over 12 million members living in the District of Columbia, and eight states, is one of America’s top health care providers offering not-for-profit health plans, is on a mission to supply affordable, top quality, health care services. They also have a goal of ameliorating the health and wellness of the communities and the members it serves.

Shirley Amy

Shirley Amy is a Holistic Health Specialist and professional writer who's published 4 books. Her  interests include optimum wellness, mental health, fitness, and positive lifestyle change. She holds University and College qualifications in the fields of Health Science, Nutrition, Mental Health, Fitness, Holistic Therapy and Aromatherapy.

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