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Research Finds Extreme Morning Sickness Can Harm Baby

LOS ANGELES ( — A new study released by UCLA finds that extreme morning sickness can cause neurological damage in unborn babies.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, has spoken publicly about suffering from the condition during both her pregnancies. It's known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and is a pregnancy complication characterized by intractable nausea, vomiting and dehydration.

It can be so severe that some of the women in the studies had "their ribs detached or their retinas detached or had their esophagus tear," UCLA researcher Marlenza Fejzo said.

Now researchers say it can also cause lasting side effects to unborn babies. Women who experience HG are three times more likely to deliver children with neurological developmental issues, including attention disorders and language/speech delays, as compared to women who have normal nausea and vomiting, Fejzo said.

It's the first study on how HG affects babies in the womb.

Researchers don't believe the medication used to treat HG is what's causing the neurodevelopmental issues. They suspect a lack of nutrients during early development is to blame.

It's a serious condition they believe is under-diagnosed and not properly treated.

Karin Meyers is a mom-to-be who says that a 20-week bout of HG made it impossible for her to swallow. She couldn't drink water. Nothing sounded pleasing. And nothing smelled appetizing. It started when she was five weeks along and, within a few months, she lost 14 pounds.

"When we knew it was bad was when I couldn't swallow water, and it would come back up cold still," the 25-year-old told CBS2/KCAL9's Kristine Lazar at UCLA Medical Center. "Every day is trying to survive."

She said, "I've heard of women who will abort because they're so sick they just can't live like that."

Meyers had to wear an IV pump with the anti-nausea medication Zofran for half of her pregnancy. Then her insurance company denied her coverage even though she was still sick.

"When I think about giving birth I think it will be really emotional," Meyers said. "And that I'll say to him, 'We made it. We did it, we made it through."

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