Understanding Morning Sickness and How It Affects Pregnancy
Morning sickness is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, though not all women experience it. Symptoms range from mild nausea to vomiting, and can be accompanied by food cravings or aversions, and hypersensitivity to strong odors. The nausea often occurs for women during the first trimester of pregnancy. It can begin as early as four to six weeks after conception and commonly peaks in severity within weeks 8-11. There is no proven single cause of morning sickness, although speculation includes the rising levels of progesterone and estrogen and the elevation of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
How Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Treat Morning Sickness
Chinese medical theory relates morning sickness to the initial health of the digestive system before pregnancy and how the body is adapting to the additional work of gestation. It can be treated with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and nutritional guidance.
Acupuncture focuses on redirecting the energy back down to the fetus and aims to strengthen the stomach and spleen as a paired system. Common points used are the similar to those recommended by western “motion sickness bands,” which are worn around the wrist at an acupuncture point location. By stimulating this point more strongly and combining it with others to strengthen digestion, you can create a more complete and effective treatment than using the bands alone.
Chinese herbs also focus on strengthening the digestive system through increasing digestive juices and stabilizing core temperature which can fluctuate with gestation. Often herbs chosen are the same as those recommended by a western MD. However, single herbs, such as ginger, are decocted with others to help calm and strengthen a developing fetus while inhibiting nausea and vomiting through tonification.
Nutritional guidance recommends avoiding highly fatty or greasy foods as they are difficult to digest, even under the most ideal circumstances. All food should be warm so the body does not have to expend additional energy to warm them, and care should be taken to eliminate any overly spicy items. Often it is recommended to eat before rising and to space out food intake by eating smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day. It is recommended to eat more protein and carbohydrates that are easy to digest in order to stave off nausea.
How Western Medicine Treats Morning Sickness
A doctor may prescribe anti-nausea medications if the expectant mother suffers from dehydration or malnutrition as a result of her morning sickness. Zofran (ondansetron) is the usual drug of choice, though the high cost is prohibitive for some women. Sometimes antacids, Vitamin B6, relief or “seasickness bands,” and antihistamines may also be prescribed. Oftentimes the medication does not completely alleviate the nausea, so acupuncture can still offer additional relief.
Research and Related Articles on Morning Sickness
Success of acupuncture and acupressure of the Pc 6 acupoint in the treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum
PMID: 15004444 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Effect of acupressure on nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. A randomized, placebo-controlled, pilot study
PMID: 11584487 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Effect of acupressure by Sea-Bands on nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.
PMID: 11277163 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]