Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is a common occurrence, affecting approximately 70% of women. However, for some, this condition can be severe and life-threatening, leading to hyperemesis gravidarum, which is a type of hyperactive vomiting, a diagnosis given when symptoms are severe enough to limit daily activity, cause weight loss, and electrolyte disturbances, which can have long-term health risks for both mother and offspring. Hyperactive vomiting is the leading cause of hospitalization in early pregnancy in the USA.


The question is, what causes this extreme nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, and what can we do about it?


What Causes Extreme Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy?


According to recent research published in the scientific journal Nature, hyperactive vomiting – a severe form of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy – might be caused by a hormone called growth differentiation factor 15, also known as growth differentiation factor 15, that the fetus produces. The study found that the growth differentiation factor 15 levels in the maternal bloodstream steadily increase during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. 


Structure of growth differentiation factor 15


The study has found a possible link between growth differentiation factor 15 and nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. This is important because it shows a connection between the hormone and hyperactive vomiting. To identify two types of growth differentiation factor 15 with different amino-acid residues, researchers have developed a method using a genetic variant in the growth differentiation factor 15 gene known as H202D. This method can determine whether growth differentiation factor 15 has a histidine (H) amino-acid residue at position 202 or an aspartate (D) residue. The technique uses mass spectrometry.


More Information on Hyperactive Morning Sickness


Hyperactive vomiting is a condition that affects pregnant women and is characterized by severe and persistent vomiting. This condition can cause debilitating symptoms that lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, weight loss, and other complications. 


The symptoms of hyperactive vomiting are often more severe than the typical morning sickness experienced during pregnancy. Women suffering from hyperactive vomiting experience nausea and vomiting that can last all day and night, which can lead to malnourishment and weight loss. 


The condition can also cause electrolyte imbalances, which can lead to serious health problems such as seizures, muscle weakness, and heart arrhythmias. The child’s development may be affected if the mother experiences hyperactive vomiting and is unable to get enough nutrients.


Women who experience nausea, vomiting, and hyperactive vomiting have higher levels of growth differentiation factor 15 than those who do not. Growth differentiation factor 15 is a protein produced in response to stress, inflammation, and tissue damage. It is believed to regulate appetite, energy balance, and body weight.


Can this Discovery Lead to Potential Treatments for Nausea in Pregnant Women?


Further research on the role of growth differentiation factor 15 in hyperactive vomiting might lead to identifying potential treatments or preventive measures for this debilitating condition. The identification of a reliable biomarker, like growth differentiation factor 15, could lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention, potentially improving outcomes for women suffering from hyperactive vomiting. It may also help healthcare providers to understand the underlying mechanisms of the condition better and develop more effective treatments to alleviate the symptoms of hyperactive vomiting.


It is worth noting that during pregnancy, the hormone growth differentiation factor 15 is primarily produced by the fetus rather than the mother’s body, contrary to the previously held belief that the mother’s body was responsible for producing this hormone. Furthermore, a recent study has shown that genetic variations associated with a higher likelihood of developing hyperactive vomiting are also linked to increased growth differentiation factor 15 levels in individuals who do not have hyperactive vomiting compared to those who do. This finding implies that elevated levels of growth differentiation factor 15, particularly in individuals with a genetic inclination for excessive vomiting, can potentially induce the symptoms of nausea and vomiting associated with hyperactive vomiting.


Certain drugs that work by blocking the action of growth differentiation factor 15 are available. These drugs are primarily used to manage the chronic nausea and vomiting that cancer patients commonly experience. However, these drugs could also be repurposed for treating hyperactive vomiting. By repurposing these drugs, it may be possible to alleviate the symptoms of hyperactive vomiting and minimize complications associated with the condition.


Additionally, the study has identified a blood test that can predict the risk of hyperactive vomiting and other pregnancy-related complications. This test could be used for early interventions that may help improve outcomes for pregnant women. These findings provide a promising avenue for developing effective treatments for hyperactive vomiting and related complications.


A Step Forward and a Look Toward the Future


The study is a significant step forward in understanding the causes of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. By linking hyperactive vomiting to a hormone produced by the fetus, this research opens up new opportunities for investigating how to prevent and treat this condition. The knowledge gained from this study has the potential to significantly improve the management of hyperactive vomiting, which can reduce the risk of complications and maternal mortality. Further research into the signaling pathways of growth differentiation factor 15 holds promise for expectant mothers who experience severe nausea and vomiting, offering hope for a brighter future.