QIMR is 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 well beyond the type of morning sickness experienced by most women.
Dr Sarah Medland from QIMR’s Quantitative Genetics group said women suffering from the condition could not keep down food or water for extended periods, and lost weight 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.
Dr Medland’s team is one of the first in the world to turn its attention to the debilitating condition.
They are researching the environmental and genetic risk factors, to identify women at risk, intervene earlier, and improve treatments.
“We are interested in all experiences of morning sickness ranging from women who have had uneventful or mild morning sickness to those who have had severe morning sickness or developed hyperemesis gravidarum,” Dr Medland said.
“Participating in the study involves completing a confidential online questionnaire that can be completed at home.”
To find out more about the study please visit www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/morningsickness