You are currently using an unsupported browser which could affect the appearance and functionality of this website. Please consider upgrading to the latest version or using alternatives such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

The RCOG welcomes important new study uncovering the cause of pregnancy sickness

14 Dec 2023

A new study published in Nature shows that maternal sensitivity to a hormone produced by the fetus might underlie the risk of severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.

The RCOG welcomes the results of a new study, published in Nature this week, representing a major advance in understanding the cause of pregnancy sickness.

The researchers showed that the degree of nausea and vomiting experienced in pregnancy is directly related to both the amount of GDF15, a hormone made by the foetal part of placenta and sent into the bloodstream, and how sensitive the woman is the nauseating effect of this hormone.

This discovery offers an opportunity to prevent pregnancy sickness, by exposing mothers to GDF15 ahead of pregnancy to build up their resilience.

As many as seven in ten pregnancies are affected by nausea and vomiting. In around one and three in 100 pregnancies this can be severe, known as hyperemesis gravidarum, and is the commonest cause of admission to hospital of women in the first three months of pregnancy.

The RCOG is currently developing a new Green Top Guideline on Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy and Hyperemesis Gravidarum, due to publish in early 2024.

  • Clinical and research
  • Pregnancy and birth