Severe morning sickness is hereditary, study says

Women whose mothers suffered from severe morning sickness are more likely to develop the debilitating condition, according to research.

Norwegian researchers said women were three times more likely to suffer hyperemesis gravidarum, an extreme form of morning sickness, if their mother had the condition.

However, they could not confirm that the link was genetic.

The complication leads to nausea and vomiting in pregnant women before the twenty second week of gestation, and can lead to nutritional deficiencies and weight loss. Low birth weight and premature birth can result.

The condition was previously thought to be a psychological problem relating to rejection of the child or a partner.

To assess whether there was a recurrence across generations, researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health looked at records of 2.3 millions births between 1967 and 2006. They studied patterns in mother-and-daughter and mother-and-son pairs.

The researchers found that if a mother had suffered from hyperemesis her daughter was three times more likely to develop the condition. However, there was no added risk in female partners of the affected mother's son.

The authors said the risk may be genetic but added that ‘it is possible that the risk is not genetically transmitted, but is caused by environmental factors that are shared by mothers and daughters'. 'These can be nutritional factors, other lifestyle factors or infections,' they said.

They concluded that ‘a better understanding of the psychological consequences of experiencing severe nausea and vomiting could be helpful for clinicians who treat and counsel women with hyperemesis gravidarum'.

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