Those of you who have been waiting on pins and needles to hear about the next trial of Kate Middleton are surely breathing a sigh of relief that she’s out of the hospital.

But as much as the media’s obsession with the Royal Bump is a bit over wrought for a country that does not have royalty, Kate Middleton’s morning sickness problem is in fact quite common. And the proper relief for such severe morning sickness has eluded doctors up until now.

One researcher at the University of Buffalo may have struck on that solution, using a drug normally administered as an anti-seizure medication. Doctor Thomas Guttuso has been working with a drug called gabapentin and cancer patients when he hit on the idea that the same drug might prove effective dealing with hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness in pregnant women):

“But when they started with gabapentin, all of them showed a dramatic improvement,” he says. “Within two hours of taking the first pill, most of the patients were feeling much better and several were able to start eating and drinking again. It was a pretty amazing thing to see.

“The study showed that after two weeks of gabapentin therapy, the seven women experienced an average 80 percent reduction in their nausea and a 94 percent reduction in their vomiting and near normal levels of eating and drinking,” Guttuso says. After this study was published, Guttuso knows of five more women with hyperemesis gravidarum that tried gabapentin and all experienced excellent relief.

Tests with the drug showed obvious promise, but they are in fact very small clinical tests. More work will need to be done to prove that the drug can be considered safe and effective.

And as much as we all enjoy laughing at the media’s constant hovering over Middleton, this rarely-discussed yet common problem for pregnant women is very serious indeed. Like Middleton, many women find themselves in the hospital on fluids because they can neither eat nor drink while suffering. In fact the article notes a remarkable 15% of women suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum terminate the pregnancy because they are unable to continue.

Consuming a nutrient found in eggs and meat during pregnancy may lower an infant’s vulnerability to stress-related illnesses. Choline influences whether or not a gene is expressed. . High-than-normal amounts of choline in the diet during pregnancy determine the fate of our genes.

The research team chose 26 pregnant women in their third trimester and assigned them to take 480 mg of choline per day, an amount above the recommended 450 mg per day, until delivery. They found that higher maternal choline intake leads to a great amount of DNA methylation. Choline has a handful of nutrients that provides methyl groups for this process.

“The study is important because it shows that a relatively simple nutrient can have significant effects in prenatal life, and that these effects likely continue to have a long-lasting influence on adult life,” said Eva K. Pressman, M.D., study author and director of the high-risk pregnancy program at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “While our results won’t change practice at this point, the idea that maternal choline intake could essentially change fetal genetic expression into adulthood is quite novel.”

Choline can be made in the liver and the is used for liver disease, depression, memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and as a supplement taken by pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in their babies. Studying authors say the findings raise the exciting possibility that choline may be used therapeutically in higher than normal cases of maternal stress from anxiety, depression or other prenatal conditions. Further research is needed to one day figure out if choline is need to be prescribed to pregnant women, in the same way as folate, according to Pressman

In an upcoming issue of a scientific journal, Seminars in Perinatology, @UofR baby doc Loralei L. Thornburg says that, while it may seem counterintuitive, obese women may lack many vitamins necessary to have a healthy pregnancy. In particular, folic acid is a necessary component both of successful implantation of a fertilized egg as well as preventing certain heart and spine defects in newborns, is often found to be lacking in overweight women.

Additionally, overweight women are at an increased risk of sleep apnea, a condition where the sufferer experiences abnormal pauses in breathing while sleeping. This is true in all cases, but many women experience sleep apnea during pregnancy because they are forced to sleep on their backs towards the end of the pregnancy.

For more information on obesity and pregnancy, see the following U of R article:

Myths and Truths of Obesity and Pregnancy – News Room – University of Rochester Medical Center.