Higher IQ for Your Baby and Other Benefits of Morning Sickness

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You probably think morning sickness is just a pregnancy nuisance, but it may be a lot more important than that.

Have you noticed that whenever a woman gets sick to her stomach for no reason in a movie or TV show, she turns out to be pregnant? That act never gets old because it is based on a simple truth. Most women do get morning sickness early in pregnancy. It may be the first sign of pregnancy.

You probably think morning sickness is just a pregnancy nuisance, but it may be a lot more important than that. The morning sickness ordeal occurs for most pregnant women in the first trimester, from the 6th to 12th week.

If you stop and think about it, anything happening with that much frequency and regularity probably happens for a good reason. It turns out that morning sickness has several good reasons. These reasons evolved over thousands of years of evolution and they add up to some surprising benefits for you and your baby.

Morning Sickness and Children’s IQ

A study from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, found that women with morning sickness tend to have children with higher IQ scores. The study was published in the prestigious Journal of Pediatrics. In the study, women were asked to rate the duration and severity of their morning sickness. Three to seven years after birth of their children, 121 of the women brought their children in for a comprehensive battery of IQ testing, including testing for memory, vocabulary, memory, and attention.

Compared to children of women who did not have significant morning sickness, the children whose mothers suffered with morning sickness had higher IQ scores and better vocabularies. The more these women suffered for their babies, the higher the IQs. In fact, 21 percent of the morning sickness kids had IQ scores over 130. Only 7 percent of the other children had scores over 130. A child with an IQ score of 130 is considered “gifted.” 

There is an evolutionary theory behind this gift of morning sickness. The same hormones that cause morning sickness also increase blood supply to the placenta. Women who have more frequent morning sickness may have a dip in calories that triggers even more hormone release. Hormones then trigger more nutrients and oxygen to flow through the placenta, nature’s way of protecting the baby. This enriched flow during the first trimester coincides with the most important period of a baby’s brain and nervous system development.

Other Surprising Benefits

There is a lot to surprise you about morning sickness. To start with it is not a sickness and it doesn’t just occur in the morning. Morning sickness occurs more frequently in societies that eat lots of meat. It’s no accident that a strong smell of meat may trigger an attack of morning sickness. Any strong-smelling food may be a warning of bacterial contamination. Morning sickness is also triggered by a strong smell of eggs or fish, foods that are more likely to harbor toxins or bacteria. A wave of nausea may be nature’s way of helping you avoid foods that are dangerous for you and your baby. 

The same protective reflex also occurs with cigarette smoke and alcohol. Your morning sickness hormones are like an evolutionary wellness insurance plan. Other studies have found that women who have morning sickness have a lower risk of:

  • Miscarriage
  • Prematurity
  • Birth defects
  • Labor and delivery problems.

The bottom line on morning sickness is that you are not sick, you are experiencing the miracle of evolution. It may feel miserable but it may also be good for you and your baby. Of course, we are talking about the normal type of morning sickness that stops after the first trimester.

Really severe morning sickness that continues after the first trimester, or makes you vomit enough to cause dehydration and malnutrition is not good for you or your baby. This exhausting experience is called hyperemesis gravidarum. This type of morning sickness, really does make you sick, and needs to be treated by your pregnancy care provider.

Related Topics

Natural Remedies for Morning Sickness

Antihistamines for Morning Sickness

Christopher Iliades
Dr. Chris Iliades is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience in clinical medicine and clinical research. Chris has been a full time medical writer and journalist since 2004. His byline appears in over 1,000 articles online including EverydayHealth, The Clinical Advisor, and Healthgrades. He has also written for print media including Cruising World Magazine, MD News, and The Johns Hopkins Children's Center Magazine. Chris lives with his wife and close to his three children and four grandchildren in the Boston area.

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