Link found between morning sickness, smoking and healthy pregnancies

December 6, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A link between the 'old wives' tale that morning sickness may indicate a healthy pregnancy, and the reason smoking is so detrimental has been found, according to a review published in the Journal of Molecular Endocrinology. The article discusses the importance of the hormone endokinin for healthy pregnancies, its role in causing morning sickness, and how its normal function may be adversely affected by smoking, leading to poor outcomes in pregnancy.

Successful and effective implantation of the placenta is essential for a healthy but how this is achieved remains to be firmly established. In particular, the role of peptide hormones and the placenta in causing morning is unclear. In this article, Professor Philip Lowry and Dr Russell Woods from the University of Reading review the critical roles that peptide hormones have in ensuring successful implantation of the placenta, discuss how endokinin can indirectly lead to the development of morning sickness symptoms, and how its normal function can be impaired by smoking.

Endokinin is a peptide hormone found throughout the body that can affect blood supply to organs locally. Placental endokinin, even at low levels, appears to be capable of improving local blood flow, which is a key factor for ensuring successful implantation. Endokinin also acts on the brain to induce nausea and vomiting. This is why drugs that block the actions of endokinin in the brain are often used to treat nausea associated with chemotherapy. Furthermore, recent data indicates that tobacco smoke also influences lung endokinin levels.

Since hormones like endokinin are transported in the blood, they can also affect functions in other parts of the body and this is the basis of the link between morning sickness, pregnancy and smoking. Increases in endokinin levels during pregnancy that ensure good placental can also overspill and activate the brain areas that cause morning sickness symptoms. Similarly, the nausea experienced by non-smokers on inhaling tobacco smoke may be due to raised levels of endokinin in the lungs also activating those brain areas. Given that smoking during pregnancy is well known to lead to poor placental implantation, this suggests that impaired endokinin activity may be involved.

Prof Lowry suggests, "It is feasible that the regular release of lung endokinin into a mother's blood from adversely affects the normal local response to placental endokinin, which is needed to ensure a healthy pregnancy."

Prof Lowry cautions, "There may be a temptation to use endokinin blocking drugs to treat morning sickness during pregnancy but these findings suggest that such drugs could affect the health of the pregnancy and must be avoided."

Prof Lowry concludes, "I hope that this article will give some psychological relief to pregnant women suffering from , but will also persuade smokers who are intending to have a baby to kick the habit well beforehand."

Explore further: Women's wellness: Should I be worried about morning sickness?

More information: "The placenta controls the physiology of pregnancy by increasing the half-life in blood and receptor activity of its secreted peptide hormones." Journal of Molecular Endocrinology on 7 December 2017.

Related Stories

Women's wellness: Should I be worried about morning sickness?

September 12, 2017
Dear Mayo Clinic: I'm 15 weeks pregnant and have had horrible morning sickness from the beginning of the pregnancy. I've lost weight and worry that will affect the baby's health. I didn't experience any morning sickness with ...

Doctors develop new way to use MRI to predict pregnancy complications

December 6, 2017
UCLA scientists have developed a new way to use magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to scan the placenta. The noninvasive approach offers valuable insights into how the mother's blood enters the placenta and sustains the ...

'Morning sickness' linked to lower miscarriage risk: study

September 26, 2016
Morning sickness is linked to a lower risk of miscarriage, according to research out Monday that suggests a woman's nausea and vomiting early in pregnancy may have protective effects for the fetus.

Preemptive treatment of severe morning sickness decreases suffering for moms-to-be

February 11, 2013
`In a study to be presented on February 14 at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting, in San Francisco, California, researchers will present data showing the effectiveness of preemptive ...

White blood cell treatment could prevent leading cause of fetal death

December 12, 2016
Treating a type of white blood cell using hormones could improve the development of the placenta in women with pregnancy complications, according to early research led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) involving mice ...

Recommended for you

Hormone discovery marks breakthough in understanding fertility

December 12, 2017
Scientists at The University of Nottingham have shown, for the first time, that a naturally occurring hormone plays a vital part in regulating a woman's fertility, a discovery that could lead to better diagnosis and treatment ...

Study reveals Viagra to be 'ineffective' for fetal growth restriction

December 8, 2017
A University of Liverpool led international clinical trial has found an anti-impotence drug to be ineffective at improving outcomes for pregnancies complicated by fetal growth restriction.

Obese first-time mums more likely to have premature babies

December 4, 2017
Obese women are up to three times more likely to have a premature child during their first pregnancy, according to a study from University College Dublin.

Stillbirth is not just stillbirth—more information is needed

December 4, 2017
Forty two babies are stillborn in Australia every week, and 60 per cent of them are recorded as "unexplained".

First baby from a uterus transplant in the US born in Dallas

December 2, 2017
The first birth as a result of a womb transplant in the United States has occurred in Texas, a milestone for the U.S. but one achieved several years ago in Sweden.

Living in a 'war zone' linked to delivery of low birthweight babies

November 28, 2017
Mums-to-be living in war zones/areas of armed conflict are at heightened risk of giving birth to low birthweight babies, finds a review of the available evidence published in the online journal BMJ Global Health.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.