Morning Sickness and your Genes

Posted on Jul 26, 2011 | Blog Posts, Morning Sickness Causes Category | | Print This Article

Margo and Colin Meloy's Grandmother
Creative Commons License photo credit: ex_magician

Many women – somewhere between 50 and 75 percent – have morning sickness. Sometimes it’s mild, sometimes it’s severe. For many women, it’s triggered by smells, but for others it’s not. For the most part, we’re not sure what causes it. There’s evidence to suggest that it’s changing hormone levels messing with the digestive system, but that doesn’t explain why many women don’t experience it.

A new study suggests that there may actually be a genetic component to morning sickness. Whether your mother, sister, maternal or paternal grandmother experienced morning sickness can indicate whether you will, too. It seems that intensity is also carried genetically. Severe morning sickness with vomiting and nausea, known as hyperemesis gravidarum has been shown to have a genetic link, too.

The importance of family health history

Now, this doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to have morning sickness just because other women in your family have had it. What it does mean is that the chances that you’ll have morning sickness are greater if you have a family history.

Here’s where understanding your family health history has yet another payoff. We know that understanding family health concerns from heart problems to cancer to diabetes can all help with diagnosis today. But even knowing whether or not your mom had severe morning sickness can help you be prepared.

The danger of hyperemesis gravidarum

Severe vomiting during pregnancy can be dangerous, and if you have a family history of this you should be careful. You can become dehydrated, and you can even experience malnourishment. When you can’t keep anything down for any significant amount of time, you’re going to lose weight, and it’s going to be hard for your baby to get the nutrition she needs.

If you’re experiencing severe vomiting during pregnancy, talk to your doctor. You may need to receive nutrients via an IV in order to make sure that your baby grows and develops like he should.

The good news is that morning sickness, even for those with a family history, tends to dissipate by the end of the first trimester.

So, what about you? Have you experienced morning sickness? What about other women in your family?


  • Laura Jane Vennard

    I am 10weeks pregnant and am experiencing really bad sickness.I’m not vomiting but having really bad nausea and feeling really sick to the point of not making it out of bed in the mornings.My appetite is very poor and the smell of food makes me feel sicker.i have been told this can be genetic.My nan was sick the whole nine months with all of her pregnancies.I really hope mine lasts first trimester only! But it is definitely going to be worth every minute.

  • Abigail Venable

    With my first I had a few weeks of feeling queasy, threw up maybe once, then it all went away at 14 weeks and I felt AWESOME, with my second I was throwing up non-stop from 4 weeks to 40 weeks (I had her at 39w1d), it was HORRIBLE. I’m now 10 and a half weeks pregnant and I”m throwing up AGAIN. My first daughter has a different dad, and I’m 100% convinced that has something to do with it. I don’t know how else to explain it. 😛 I’m bracing for another 29 1/2 weeks of vomiting though.

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