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Treating Morning Sickness, Gingerly

Pregnant women report their nausea subsided after consuming herb

THURSDAY, Oct. 3, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Pregnancy gives rise to a host of wonderful emotions, such as joy and excitement. It's also a good excuse to eat ice cream every night.

However, expectant mothers must often cope with a very unpleasant side-effect: morning sickness.

An estimated 60 percent to 80 percent of pregnant women suffer from morning sickness, which is actually a misnomer because the nausea and vomiting associated with it can last all day long.

Fortunately, relief may be on the way: A new study has found the herb ginger can relieve the queasiness in many women.

Researchers from the University of South Florida had 26 pregnant women, aged 24 to 37, drink Ginger Honey Tonic, a syrup that contained ginger, mixed with water. A second group of women drank water containing a placebo syrup. All the women had experienced morning sickness during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Researchers then asked the women to rate their morning sickness symptoms on a 10-point scale.

The study found that 77 percent of the women drinking the Ginger Honey Tonic reported a 4-point or greater decrease in symptoms within nine days. Conversely, only 20 percent of the women on the placebo syrup, or 2 out of 10, reported a similar improvement in their symptoms.

"Ginger is known as an herb that can settle the stomach," says study co-author Dr. Ronald A. Chez, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of South Florida in Tampa when the research was conducted. "Ginger has been used by many cultures to treat nausea."

The researchers concluded that ingesting one gram of ginger daily, either in syrup or capsules, can help relieve morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The study appears in the September/October issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.

Peg Plumbo, an instructor in the nurse-midwife program at the University of Minnesota, says she's not surprised by the findings. She often recommends expectant mothers struggling with morning sickness to try ginger tea.

The Ginger Honey Tonic can be mixed with warm water to make tea, or sparkling water to produce a ginger ale-type drink, the researchers say.

Women can also buy ginger in the grocery store, cut a slice or grate it and boil it. Then let it steep for about five minutes. Sweeten the brew with honey if you like.

Plumbo cautions, however, that ginger "isn't going to help all women, and it's not necessarily going to help the same woman day to day."

Morning sickness for most women means mild to moderate nausea that comes on about the fourth to eighth week of pregnancy.

For women with severe nausea, it can lead to dehydration and hospitalization.

When a woman complains of nausea during pregnancy, Plumbo says it's important to determine she really has morning sickness and not something more significant.

Certain rare but serious conditions, including a placenta that's not developing correctly and gall bladder or liver diseases, can cause nausea and vomiting, she says.

A high stress level can also make a pregnant woman feel ill. "I like to look at if this was a planned pregnancy, how her family and her partner are supporting her," Plumbo says.

If you're dealing with morning sickness, Plumbo suggests you start by trying to eat something small, first thing in the morning. Even before you get out of bed, try nibbling on some crackers or sipping flat ginger ale or soda at room temperature.

"Some women find that if they do this even before they start moving around, it's very helpful," Plumbo says.

Prescription medicines are available to treat morning sickness, including antiemetics, a type of drug that controls the spasms of the stomach. Mild tranquilizers can also calm your mood and your stomach, Plumbo says.

Some women find relief with over-the-counter antacids, motion sickness drugs, sleep aids or acupressure.

"There are probably hundreds of other remedies out there we don't know anything about," she says.

What To Do

For more tips on dealing with morning sickness, check with the American Academy of Family Physicians or the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.

SOURCES: Ronald A. Chez, M.D., deputy director, Samueli Institute for Information Biology, Corona del Mar, Calif.; Peg Plumbo, R.N., M.S., C.N.M., instructor, nurse-midwife program, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; September/October 2002 Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine
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