Scientists found that severe morning sickness in pregnancy is mainly caused by a single hormone called GDF15, according to a study in the journal Nature. This discovery might lead to improved treatments for morning sickness, including rare, life-threatening cases.

The amount of GDF15 in a woman’s blood during pregnancy and her exposure to it before pregnancy influence the severity of symptoms. Over two-thirds of pregnant women experience nausea, and about 2% are hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe condition causing continuous vomiting and nausea throughout pregnancy.

Hyperemesis can lead to malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration, and increased risks for preterm birth and other complications. Despite its seriousness, it is often overlooked, with doctors attributing severe symptoms to psychological causes.

Dr. Marlena Fejzo, a geneticist and study co-author, emphasized the need for more research and understanding, as hyperemesis remains understudied despite its significant impact on pregnant women’s health.

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