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HeMS Wilson: An exploration of the mental health support needs of women experiencing Hyperemesis Gravidarum during pregnancy in the UK

Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care

Supervisors: Dr Ceri Wilson; Dr Amanda Wagg; Dr Melanie Boyce

Location: Chelmsford

The interview for this project is expected to take place on Tuesday 16 April.

Apply online by 3 March 2024

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is a severe and debilitating form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, and research suggests it effects 0.3-3.6% of pregnant women.

However, the prevalence is likely to be higher than reported, due to a lack of awareness amongst healthcare professionals (HCPs) meaning some women do not get diagnosed nor receive appropriate treatment.

HG leaves women unable to eat or drink normally, leads to weight loss, hugely limits daily activities (with many women confined to their beds), and results in hospital admissions, with women requiring IV fluids due to dehydration, electrolyte disturbance, and nutritional deficiency.

HG is the most common cause of hospitalisation in the first half of pregnancy and accounts for 25,000 admissions per year in England.

Research has revealed that HG has a significant psychological impact on women, with feelings of guilt, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and isolation.

Additionally, pregnancy termination (or consideration of termination) of otherwise healthy and wanted pregnancies is reported amongst women with HG, along with reticence to become pregnant again.

Mental health impacts from HG are exacerbated by the lack of understanding from HCPs and poor access to appropriate care/treatment for the condition, and financial burdens from time off work and associated loss of earnings.

Most of the existing research exploring the mental health impacts of HG has been quantitative, with the majority conducted outside the UK.

Quantitative research has shown that women with HG are significantly more likely to experience depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms during pregnancy and after birth, which can continue years after birth.

The limited qualitative research to date reveals that women with HG report experiencing social isolation, depression, anxiety, guilt, loss of self, and suicidal ideation.

Further qualitative research which explores the mental health impacts and support needs of women with HG is vital for understanding and supporting the mental health of women with HG.

Much of the existing research has not been conducted in the UK, and given different cultures, healthcare policies and systems, there is a need for more UK-specific research.

Furthermore, there is a distinct lack of diversity in samples in existing research, with samples consisting of primarily Caucasian, aged 30+, married, higher than average socioeconomic status, university-educated women. Therefore, further qualitative research with a diverse sample of women experiencing HG in the UK is needed.

Aim and objectives

The overarching aim of this proposed PhD research is to explore the mental health support needs of women experiencing HG in the UK. The objectives that guide the study are:

  • To examine the mental health impacts from experiencing HG in pregnancy throughout the perinatal period (pregnancy and up to one year postpartum) on a diverse sample of women in the UK.
  • To explore the mental health support needs of a diverse sample of women in the UK experiencing HG.
  • To identify appropriate strategies for promotion of the mental health of women experiencing HG in the UK.

Methods

This study will employ primarily qualitative methods; however, some descriptive quantitative data may be utilised. Indicative methods are likely to include online surveys, interviews, and focus groups, with the potential for the use of creative data collection methods (e.g. poetry, visual art, photography).

It is anticipated that the study and analysis will be informed and guided by feminist theories, and that the research will extend theoretical understandings around women’s experiences of HG.

If you would like to discuss this research project, please contact Ceri Wilson: [email protected]

Apply online by 3 March 2024

Funding notes

The successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers the tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2023/4 this was £18,622 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.