Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

Original Articles

Prenatal exposure to hyperemesis gravidarum linked to increased risk of psychological and behavioral disorders in adulthood

P. M. Mullina1a, A. Braya2a, F. Schoenberga2, K. W. MacGibbona3, R. Romeroa4, T. M. Goodwina1 and M. S. Fejzoa1a5 c1

a1 Department of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

a2 Department of Statistics, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

a3 Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation, Leesburg, VA, USA

a4 Department of Health and Human Services, NICHD, NIH, DHHS, Perinatology Research Branch, Bethesda, MD, and Detroit, MI, USA

a5 Department of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA


Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, is characterized by long-term maternal stress, undernutrition and dehydration. While maternal stress and malnutrition of pregnancy are linked to poor neonatal outcome and associated with poor adult health, long-term outcome of fetal exposure to HG has never been explored. The purpose of this study is to determine whether long-term emotional and behavioral diagnoses may be associated with fetal exposure to HG. Emotional and behavioral diagnoses of adults born of a pregnancy complicated by HG were compared to diagnoses from non-exposed controls. Offspring exposed to HG in utero were significantly more likely to have a psychological and behavioral disorder (OR = 3.6, P < 0.0001) with diagnoses primarily of depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. In utero exposure to HG may lead to increased risks of psychological and behavioral disorders in the offspring.

(Online publication June 08 2011)


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr M. S. Fejzo, Ph.D., 5535 MRL Building. 675 Charles E Young Dr South, LA, CA 90095, USA. (Email


a These authors contributed equally.