Researchers : Determine the Root Cause of Severe Morning Sickness



Researchers : Determine the Root Cause of Severe Morning Sickness

Researchers Determine the Root Cause of Severe Morning Sickness

A single hormone is mostly responsible for the nausea and vomiting that characterize the first trimester of pregnancy, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.


The finding, according to researchers, may result in improved morning sickness treatments, including those for extremely rare and potentially fatal cases.



The hormone known as GDF15 has been linked to previous research, which the study validates. The researchers discovered that a woman’s prenatal exposure to hormone and the quantity of it in her blood during pregnancy determine how severe her symptoms are.


During the first trimester, nausea and vomiting affect more than two thirds of pregnant women. Additionally, hyperemesis gravidarum, a disorder that causes persistent nausea and vomiting throughout the entire pregnancy, accounts for about 2% of hospital admissions among pregnant women.


Dehydration, weight loss, and malnutrition are possible outcomes of the illness. Additionally, it raises the risk of blood clots, preterm birth, and pre-eclampsia, endangering both the mother’s and the fetus’ lives.


Experts noted that hyperemesis is the primary cause of hospitalization during the early stages of pregnancy, but doctors frequently ignore it, writing off its severe symptoms as psychological, possibly because nausea and vomiting are so common during pregnancy.


Despite the fact that the condition is still poorly understood, celebrities like Amy Schumer and Kate Middleton have helped to bring attention to it in recent years by sharing their personal stories.

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Geneticist Marlena Fejzo, a co-author of the new study and geneticist at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, said, “I’ve been working on this for 20 years and yet there are still reports of women dying from this and women being mistreated.”


She has direct experience with the agony of the illness. In 1999, Dr. Fejzo was unable to eat or drink anything without throwing up during her second pregnancy.


She lost weight so quickly that she was unable to walk or stand. Her physician was contemptuous, implying that she was making up her ailments to attract attention. After being admitted to the hospital, she miscarried at 15 weeks.

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According to Dr. Fejzo, she was turned down for funding for a genetic study on hyperemesis by the National Institutes of Health. Not to be defeated, she persuaded 23andMe, a well-known genetic testing company, to add hyperemesis questions to surveys that were sent to tens of thousands of consumers.


She released a paper in 2018 demonstrating that patients with hyperemesis typically carried a variant in the GDF15 gene.


Chemicals called hormones carry messages throughout the body. Many tissues release GDF15 in reaction to stressors like infections.


Furthermore, the hormone’s signal is very specific: Hormone receptors are concentrated in the area of the brain linked to nausea and vomiting.


In the most recent study, Dr. Fejzo and associates at the University of Cambridge in England examined the genetic risk factors for hyperemesis and measured the hormone in the blood of expectant mothers.


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The GDF15 levels in pregnant women who experienced hyperemesis were found to be significantly higher by the researchers.


“It totally eliminated all of the nausea.” The study’s principal investigator, Cambridge endocrinologist Dr. Stephen O’Rahilly, stated, “They pretty much have next to zero symptoms in their pregnancies.”

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According to Dr. O’Rahilly’s hypothesis, women who are exposed to GDF15 for an extended period of time prior to becoming pregnant may be less susceptible to the abrupt spike in hormones that the developing fetus causes.

The hormone was given in tiny doses to certain mice in laboratory tests. The mice demonstrated a strong desensitization effect when they were given a much larger dose three days later.


They did not lose their appetite as much as the animals who had not received the earlier dose.


Experts stated that the results provide hope for more effective treatments for hyperemesis. If clinical trials prove that the drugs are safe to take during pregnancy, patients suffering from hyperemesis may eventually be able to take medication to block the hormone’s effects in the brain.


Trials involving cancer patients experiencing vomiting and appetite loss due to GDF15 are testing these medications.


In fact, the illness might even be avoidable. Low doses of the hormone may be given to women who are at risk, such as those who had severe nausea and vomiting during a prior pregnancy, before they become pregnant.


(Metformin, a medication for diabetes, raises GDF15 levels and is currently recommended to some patients to help with fertility.)


raises GDF15 levels and is already recommended for certain patients to help with fertility.)
The new study is significant because it provides genetic evidence linking GDF15 to the illness, according to Dr.



Rachel Freathy, a geneticist from the University of Exeter who was not involved in the research. According to her, that will aid in the condition’s increased recognition.


According to Dr. Freathy, “many people kind of assume that women should just be able to cope with this.” “There will be more belief that this is a real thing rather than something in somebody’s head,” she said, citing the biological explanation.


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