Researchers find possible cause of morning sickness: What this means for pregnant women

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(NEW YORK) — For the first time, researchers say they’ve found a possible cause of one of the most common, and life-interrupting, symptoms of pregnancy: morning sickness.

This possible cause, according to a study published Wednesday in the medical journal Nature, is a hormone called GDF15.

The amount of GDF15 that a woman has in her blood before and during pregnancy may affect the severity of morning sickness, the symptoms of which include nausea and vomiting.

Morning sickness affects around 70% of pregnant women and is most common in the first three months of pregnancy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is the medical term for a less common but more extreme form of morning sickness that includes “persistent vomiting and nausea during pregnancy,” according to the CDC.

Hyperemesis gravidarum can result in dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities and weight loss and can often require more significant medical intervention, including hospitalization.

In the United States, hyperemesis gravidarum is the leading cause of hospitalization in early pregnancy and the second most common cause of pregnancy hospitalization overall, according to data published by the National Institutes of Health.

The discovery of this possible cause of morning sickness may eventually lead to better treatment options for pregnant women, though more research is needed.

One potential avenue for treating women with hyperemesis gravidarum, for example, would be to block the effects of GDF15.

 

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