As part of a larger study focusing on migraine and other common conditions, QIMR scientists are studying the extreme type of morning sickness which led to British Royal Kate Middleton being hospitalised in the early stages of her pregnancy.
Hyperemesis gravidarum affects up to 3% of pregnant women and goes beyond the nausea experienced by most women.
Dr Sarah Medland from QIMR’s Quantitative Genetics group said women suffering from the condition cannot keep down food or water for extended periods, and begin losing weight at a time when most pregnant women would be gaining weight.
“These women often need to be treated in a hospital, because they are severely dehydrated and simply aren’t getting enough nutrition for themselves or their baby,” Dr Medland said.
“If untreated, it can have serious consequences for the mother and child. Mums can experience kidney and liver damage, and babies can be born pre-term or underweight.”
Without treatment the condition can be life-threatening. Nineteenth century author Charlotte Bronte died from hyperemesis gravidarum.
In 2013, Dr Medland’s team is planning to conduct a new study focussing on research into the environmental and genetic risk factors influencing morning sickness with the aim of improving treatments and identifying women at risk
If you would like more information on the work we do, please visit www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/morningsickness