November 29, 2014
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Study: Ginger safe for treating morning sickness

Pregnant and suffering from morning sickness (or round-the-clock sickness) but worried about the effect an anti-nausea medication may have on your baby? Ginger may be a safe and effective fix.

In a review published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers reported on a review of a number of studies that had looked at the safety and effectiveness of using ginger to relieve nausea in pregnant women. Included in the review were four studies comparing ginger to a placebo (a "sugar pill") and two comparing it to vitamin B6.

The researchers only included double-blind, randomized controlled studies, the gold standard for medical trials, in their review of ginger's effectiveness. In such studies, participants are randomly assigned to treatment groups with a control group to account for any effects caused by other variables. As well, neither the participants nor the treatment providers are aware of who is in which group, to prevent inadvertently affecting the outcome.

In examining ginger's safety, the researchers also included case studies, observational reports, uncontrolled trials, and other data.

Of the six double-blind, randomized controlled studies included in the review, four found ginger to be more effective at relieving nausea than a placebo and another two found it to be as effective as vitamin B6. None of the studies or observational reports showed any side effects when ginger was used to treat morning sickness.

An estimated half of all mothers-to-be experience vomiting or feelings of nausea, usually during the first trimester of pregnancy. While the exact cause of morning sickness isn't known, that queasy feeling is related to fluctuating hormones during pregnancy.

Morning sickness isn't usually dangerous (in fact, some research shows that women who suffer from vomiting during pregnancy actually have lower rates of miscarriage and birth defects than women who don't), but it can be unpleasant. In extreme cases, the severity of vomiting can even cause dehydration and require hospitalization.

Despite the unpleasantness of morning sickness, many women shy away from taking medications to relieve the nausea out of fear it could harm their baby. While a medication (commercially available as Diclectin®) that combines the drugs doxylamine succinate and pyridoxine HCl can be prescribed for severe morning sickness, many women try to manage the nausea using non-medicinal measures, such as sticking to certain foods and avoiding others, avoiding certain smells or other triggers, and even trying acupressure.

While the review of ginger likely comes as welcome news for pregnant women who don't find those measures to be effective, the study's authors note that their findings are only "encouraging preliminary data," and say that more research is necessary to confirm that ginger is a good option for women looking to relieve symptoms of morning sickness.


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