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The Upside of Morning Sickness

Why the hormone that causes nausea is good for the fetus

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THE GIST
A new study in the Journal of Molecular Endocrinology found that nausea early on in pregnancy is caused by the presence of the hormone endokinin and may actually be a healthy sign.
EXPERT INSIGHT
Endokinin is a hormone found throughout the body (which increases with pregnancy) that can affect blood supply to organs. When it acts on the brain, it leads to nausea and vomiting. But when it acts on the placenta, it improves blood flow here and in the uterus, helping gases and nutrients cross the boundary to improve fetal development, explains study author Phil Lowry, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences at the University of Reading. You can’t have one without the other, though, so the price for endokinin’s benefits, unfortunately, is feeling ill for the first trimester.

However, if you’re among some 20 percent of women who don’t suffer nausea, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having an unhealthy pregnancy, Lowry adds. It just means your brain is able to down-regulate your emesis receptors (the ones responsible for vomiting) naturally, or they’re less sensitive than average.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If your morning sickness is bad enough, Lowry says antihistamines could help. However, they may pose risks to the fetus, so should only be used with your doctor’s blessing. Your safest bet is sucking on ice chips, adding ginger to tea, and holding onto the fact that morning sickness typically winds down at the beginning of your second trimester.