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An adaptive significance of morning sickness? Trivers–Willard and Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Douglas Almond, Lena Edlund, Michael Joffe and Mårten Palme ()

Economics & Human Biology, 2016, vol. 21, issue C, 167-171

Abstract: Nausea during pregnancy, with or without vomiting, is a common early indication of pregnancy in humans. The severe form, Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), can be fatal. The aetiology of HG is unknown. We propose that HG may be a proximate mechanism for the Trivers–Willard (T-W) evolutionary hypothesis that mothers in poor condition should favor daughters. Using Swedish linked registry data, 1987–2005, we analyze all pregnancies that resulted in an HG admission and/or a live birth, 1.65 million pregnancies in all. Consistent with the T-W hypothesis, we find that: (i) HG is associated with poor maternal condition as proxied by low education; (ii) HG in the first two months of pregnancy is associated with a 7% point increase in live girl births; and (iii) HG affected pregnancies have a 34-percent average rate of inferred pregnancy loss, higher among less educated women.

Keywords: Morning sickness; Adaptive significance; Trivers–Willard hypothesis; Girl birth (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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