Scientists have pinpointed the cause of morning sickness. The team includes a researcher who lost her baby and suffered from a severe form of pregnancy sickness.
Co-author of the new morning sickness study, Dr. Marlena Fejzo, a geneticist at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, knows the serious effects of severe pregnancy sickness from experience. Cases like hers affect two out of 100 pregnant women, and the nausea and vomiting are so severe that patients require hospitalization. This form of ailment (called hyperemesis gravidarum – HG) may even end in miscarriage and this is what Dr. Fejzo experienced. He also knows perfectly well how doctors downplay the problem, which is why, among other things, her research. “I was really motivated to try to find out what was going on,” she said.
What causes morning sickness?
About 80% of women suffer from pregnancy nausea. pregnant women. They are usually considered a normal symptom of pregnancy, and as Dr. Marlena Fejzo pointed out, even when nausea and vomiting become extreme, doctors often believe that “it will pass” or that “the problem is in the head” (these are statements she heard herself ). However, research she carried out with other scientists shows that such nausea has a very specific cause, and it is a single hormone called GDF15. Scientists have found that GDF15 levels increase in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The higher the hormone level in the fetus and the more sensitive the pregnant woman was to this hormone, the sicker she became. It also turns out that some women have naturally high or low levels of this hormone. The latter were most often exposed to a severe form of nausea, i.e. HG.
Can pregnancy sickness be treated?
Scientists believe that if the cause of the disease is known, it is easier to find a way to prevent its extreme form. As Dr. Fejzo emphasized, it is possible that there is a way to safely expose a person to the hormone before becoming pregnant to increase tolerance to it and avoid drastic effects. The geneticist submitted an application for funding for a study to check what the appropriate dosage might be. She said that every day she wakes up determined to help people suffering from morning sickness, especially those with HG. “Many people decide not to have another child after such a pregnancy. There is still much to do. This is not the end of the story,” she said.