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Easing Pain Of Morning Sickness

For years, women were told to eat crackers and drink ginger ale to combat the nausea and vomiting that can occur during the first stages of pregnancy. But that doesn't work for everyone, especially in more severe cases of morning sickness.

Now, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) has issued guidelines for physicians on prevention and treatment.

The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay gave some advice for the illness that affects approximately 80 percent of pregnant women.

It can be very difficult for women who are suffering from moderate-to-severe morning sickness to manage their day-to-day lives, jobs and caring for other children. Plus, for up to 2 percent of women, morning sickness can be a very big deal. Severe morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum) can lead to dehydration or malnutrition for the mother and the fetus and can result in hospitalization.

While there's no cure for it, there are certainly ways to ease the symptoms.

Some women are reluctant to seek treatment for their symptoms because of the legacy of the drug thalidomide, which was prescribed for morning sickness decades ago and was found to cause severe birth defects. The drug was pulled off the market long ago, and the ACOG wants women to know there are safe treatments out there.

Women are being encourages to take advantage of treatment options, not just to prevent personal discomfort, but because there are some that believe untreated morning sickness can progress into a condition that can be dangerous for both the mother and the fetus.

The ACOG's guidelines are separated into two categories.

The first list is based on scientific evidence and includes taking a multivitamin at the time of conception, and taking vitamin B6 alone or combined with doxylamine, an antihistamine to combat nausea and vomiting.

The ACOG considers antihistamine a safe method for treating morning sickness. Senay says women should consult their OBGYN about the severity of their symptoms and what other risk factors there might be. However, in most cases, this is a safe and effective treatment.

The ACOG offers another list of treatment advice, based on limited scientific evidence, but found to be safe and effective. This includes ingesting ginger; taking Antihistamine H1 receptor blockers, phenothiazines, and benzamines; and in extremely severe cases, treatment with methylprednisolone (a steroid). But, Senay says, this should be taken as a last resort because of potential damage to the fetus.

Though the College of Obstetrics and Gynecology did not include these on their list of guidelines, there are popular alternatives that are not scientifically proven to work, says Senay. But some women have found relief with them, and they don't cause harm. There are wristbands (available at pharmacies) that are said to prevent motion sickness and morning sickness.

Some women find help with acupuncture. Senay says if you do choose to try acupuncture, look for an experienced and licensed practitioner.

Other women have found massage and hypnosis to be effective. Again, Senay says if you are going to go that route, you should be aware that those methods are not officially recommended. And that you should make sure whomever you're seeing is licensed and has had experience treating pregnant women.