Morning sickness is a common pregnancy symptom. Some women suffer from it only in the first trimester, while others may suffer from morning sickness throughout the entirety of their pregnancy. It is not pleasant, and if it can be avoided it should. One option that has recently been studied as a form of morning sickness treatment is acupuncture. Read on to find out what the research uncovered.
Can Acupuncture Get Rid of Morning Sickness?
The Trial Undertaken
The trial was commenced at a maternity teaching hospital in Adelaide, Australia. In the study, 593 women less than 14 weeks pregnant with symptoms of morning sickness symptoms were randomized into three acupuncture groups:
- Pericardium 6 (p6)
- Sham acupuncture (placebo acupuncture)
- No acupuncture group (control group)
The primary symptoms of the pregnant women with morning sickness were nausea, dry retching, and vomiting. Acupuncture treatment was administered weekly for 4 weeks. Evaluations were made between the three groups over four consecutive weeks.
The women that received the traditional acupuncture reported less nausea from the second week throughout the trial. The same women also experienced less dry retching from the second week compared with the women in the no acupuncture control group.
Women who received p6 acupuncture reported less nausea from the second week of the trial. Less dry retching from the third week compared with the women in the no acupuncture control group was also reported.
Women in the sham acupuncture group reported less nausea and dry retching from the third week compared with women in the no acupuncture control group.
However, no changes in vomiting were found among the groups at any time.
Acupuncture is an effective treatment to consider for women who experience and want to relieve nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
According to TCM, Qi (life force energy) moves through the body along meridians, which connect the organ systems. The Chong meridian joins the reproductive organs to the brain and the heart. This specific energy channel is related to all concerns having to do with female reproductive health and gynecological conditions. Its connection to the heart means that it is also connected to feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, and palpitations.
In TCM theory, morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum (persistent severe vomiting during pregnancy) are related to the stomach, spleen, and liver. Once a woman becomes pregnant, blood and Qi are strongly directed towards the pelvic area to nourish the womb (uterus) and the growing fetus. This flood of energy will also affect the digestive organs, potentially causing stomach problems. This is more probable to happen to women who have had weak digestion before, perhaps due to a lack of proper functioning of the spleen. Likewise, the direction of more blood to the reproductive organs can cause a decrease in Yin energy in the liver. This can also prompt an imbalance in the stomach leading to nausea and vomiting.
How Does Acupuncture Help Morning Sickness?
Increasing the Secretion of Endorphins and ACTH
Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the pituitary gland inhibits the chemoreceptor trigger zone and vomiting center. These are the parts of the brain that are responsible for nausea and vomiting.
Acupuncture induces the relaxation response by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. This is what helps the pregnant body adapt to stress levels.
Pressure Points To Avoid During Pregnancy
The areas directly connected to the uterus and ovaries, which are located on the inside and outside of both ankles, should be avoided.
Acupuncture may work relatively quickly to relieve morning sickness symptoms in pregnant women. It is recommended to have acupuncture done once to twice per week during the first trimester. However, the frequency of visits is dependent on the severity and occurrence of the morning sickness, as well as the woman’s constitution, medical history, and how quickly her body responds to the treatment. As always, consult your general practitioner or OBYGN first.
Southlake Natural Family Wellness
Our mission is to support the health and well-being of our patients by offering individualized, comprehensive holistic care including acupuncture, herbal recommendations, customized nutritional counseling, allergy elimination (NAET), whole food supplements, lifestyle suggestions, moxibustion, and cupping, as well as helping couples get pregnant and STAY pregnant by supporting all the paths to conception.
About Farrah Hamraie
Farrah Hamraie, L.Ac, MOM, Dipl.OM (NCCAOM), is licensed and board-certified in Acupuncture and Herbal medicine in the State of Texas with a Masters of Oriental Medicine from the Dallas College of Oriental Medicine. She is also a Diplomat of NCCAOM (the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), a Board Certified Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist, and a member of the American Association of Oriental Medicine.