Nausea in Early Pregnancy and Acupuncture

Early pregnancy is a strange time. It can bring up a range of emotions – sometimes unexpectedly. I remember finding out I was pregnant with my first child. I was in a good relationship, at a good stage in my life to have a child and although not exactly planned, it wasn’t a surprise either. Nevertheless, I felt shocked and terrified for a good while before I felt happy about it. Once it had sunk in, I still felt adrift and very lonely as I adjusted to my new reality… Then there are the physical changes to contend with I was fortunate enough only to experience mild nausea, but I

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / AndreyPopov
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / AndreyPopov

know plenty of other women and patients who have had it a lot worse. Women can feel sick constantly, not just in the morning. Some just feel sick for much of the time, others are actually sick. I remember one friend telling me how she had vomited in the kitchen sink while doing the dishes!

Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce nausea and calm anxieties. In a large scale study conducted in Australia, traditional acupuncture was found to significantly reduce nausea and vomiting in women less than 14 weeks pregnant. You can read more on the findings of the study in this article from the Daily Mail here, and access the original study here.

There are several hypotheses about what causes nausea in pregnancy. It could be due to the change in hormone levels of hCG and oestrogen, or due to the brain stem’s reaction to these hormones. It has also been suggested that women who were deep down tired and under stress prior to pregnancy can be more likely to experience more nausea (Betts, 2006). This last theory would certainly fit with the Chinese medicine model which recognises that pregnancy can accentuate existing minor imbalances in one’s health. In this model, pregnancy can also  exacerbate emotional confusion or upset and cause pregnancy disorders.

Traditional acupuncture looks to support the whole person mentally and physically. It works to restore balance, bringing a sense of calm and helping to alleviate symptoms. Nausea in pregnancy is viewed as a result of rebellious Stomach Qi (energy) which can be caused either by an underlying weakness in the digestive system, emotional difficulties upsetting the natural flow of energy (Qi), or an excess of heat or phlegm. Sometimes it can be a combination of one or more of these. If receiving acupuncture to help reduce nausea, we would be looking to address all the underlying causes as well as treating the immediate symptoms. Many women who have received acupuncture for nausea relief find they feel better soon after the needles are in and find coming for treatment twice a week initially, then dropping to weekly helps them get through those early weeks more comfortably. I would also be likely to give some dietary tips based on your specific Chinese medicine diagnosis to help lengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the treatment.

If you’d like to ask me more about how acupuncture could help you or you’d like to book an appointment you can either use this contact form here or call me on 07772 501810

There is an excellent advice sheet from one of the leading acupuncturists in obstetric acupuncture (Debra Betts) available here. This short film clip is also interesting about the use of acupuncture for nausea.

Jill Storstein DipAc, MBAcC is a member of the British Acupuncture Council with clinics in Edinburgh and Portobello.

References:

Betts D, (2006) The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth, The Journal of Chinese Medicine, Hove, East Sussex.

Smith C et al. (2002) Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Birth, Mar;29(1):1-9.

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