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Morning sickness, the common nausea and vomiting experienced during pregnancy.

A potential breakthrough has emerged in understanding morning sickness, the common nausea and vomiting experienced during pregnancy.

Scientists from the University of Southern California and University of Cambridge have identified the hormone GDF15, produced in the placenta, as a significant factor in the severity of morning sickness.

Their findings, published in Nature on Wednesday, suggest that a mother’s sensitivity to this hormone influences the intensity of her symptoms.

While previous research has associated GDF15 with these symptoms, the latest study indicates that women exposed to lower levels of the hormone before pregnancy tend to experience more severe morning sickness.

Marlena Fejzo, a clinical assistant professor of population and public health sciences in the Center for Genetic Epidemiology at the USC’s Keck School of Medicine and the paper’s first author,

The research could potentially lead to a cure for morning sickness. While there have been treatments to alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness, this study presents potential pathways for addressing the root cause.

Based on the study’s findings, researchers propose two potential approaches for assistance: reducing GDF15 levels or exposing individuals to GDF15 before pregnancy to prepare their bodies for increased hormone levels during pregnancy.

Fejzo stated that this research presents compelling evidence that either one or both of these methods will prove to be effective in the prevention or treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as severe morning sickness.

According to University of Cambridge’s professor Sir Stephen O’Rahilly, who was also involved in the study, the pre-exposure to the hormone would need to be carried out “safely and gradually in a manner that does not cause discomfort.” He further explained, “We hope that by doing this, we can reduce the likelihood of individuals developing hyperemesis during pregnancy.”

What is the duration of morning sickness?

A potential remedy could benefit the 70 to 80% of pregnant individuals who encounter morning sickness, which, despite its name, can occur at any time of the day.

Mild nausea and vomiting are common symptoms for most women during the first trimester of pregnancy, but a small percentage experience prolonged symptoms that last until delivery.

Hyperemesis gravidarum, an extreme form of morning sickness, affects about 0.3 to 2% of all pregnancies, leading to persistent nausea and vomiting. Severe cases can result in weight loss and dehydration, often requiring intensive treatment, as stated by the CDC.

Charlotte Howden described her experience with hyperemesis gravidarum during her pregnancy seven years ago as “a living hell,” she told CBS News.

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