In utero exposure to hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is linked to a three-fold increase in risk of a neurodevelopmental diagnosis such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), reports the first study to examine this relationship.

Marlena Fejzo, PhD, from the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues recruited 312 children from 203 mothers with HG from the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation between 2007–2011. All mothers were aged ≥18 with a confirmed diagnosis of HG in their first pregnancy and treatment with IV fluids and/or total parenteral nutrition/nasogastric feeding tube. In 2012 the participants provided updates on child neurodevelopmental outcomes, which were compared to data on 169 children from 89 unaffected mothers.

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Children exposed to HG in utero had a 3.28-fold increase in odds of a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning delays, sensory integration/sensory processing disorder, social development delay or social anxiety, and speech or language delay in at least one of their children. No increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bipolar disorder, central auditory processing disorder, conduct disorder, depression, dysgraphia, dyslexia, intellectual impairment, memory impairment, obsessive compulsive disorder, self-control issues, self-mutilation, or visual/spatial skill impairment was observed. Only early onset of symptoms (<5 weeks gestation) was significantly associated with neurodevelopmental delay; of the 37 antiemetic medications/treatments utilized by the study participants, none were linked to neurodevelopmental delay.

The researchers are currently investigating a potential genetic link to HG and other risk factors and outcomes. They note that larger studies should be conducted to confirm the lack of association between HG and rare conditions like ASD.

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