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Role of hormones in pregnancy morning sickness

Pregnant woman and doctor

Scientists in the UK have identified high levels of a particular hormone as a significant factor in severe morning sickness.


Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a severe form of prolonged and intense nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that can require hospital treatment and affects up to 3% of pregnancies for most of their term, as symptoms do not usually improve by 16 to 20 weeks like regular morning sickness.


By using mice to explore the effects of the hormone (named GDF15), the collaborative study led by the University of Cambridge, found its levels influence the severity of nausea and vomiting.


While mice given high amounts of GDF15 quickly lost their appetite – probably due to nausea – mice previously treated with a slow-release form of GDF15 did not.


Professor Sir Stephen O'Rahilly, from the University of Cambridge, stated: "The baby growing in the womb is producing a hormone at levels the mother is not used to. The more sensitive she is to this hormone, the sicker she will become.”


Scientists now think that gradually getting a person used to this hormone before pregnancy might help stop morning sickness. The study was published in Nature.

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