Pregnancy, Nausea and Acupuncture
Updated: Jan 3
Whether this is your first or fourth pregnancy, chances are you may be apprehensive of morning sickness. In fact, between 50 and 80 percent of pregnant woman experience some form of nausea and vomiting. And despite what it sounds like, these symptoms can hit at any time of day or night ( not only Morning!!).
More and more people are turning to acupuncture to help ease their nausea and other pregnancy symptoms, and there’s research to back up this alternative therapy.
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy
Even before you see the positive sign on your pregnancy test, your body is hard at work increasing your levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to support your baby’s growth. As your hCG rises, you may feel queasy or even throw up.
Some people only have brief periods of nausea each day and otherwise feel quite normal. Others may find themselves feeling sick for hours on end with frequent vomiting. and others may have a more severe form of nausea referred as Hyperemesis Gravidum.
If you’re going to experience morning sickness, you’ll likely start having symptoms by week 9 (and it’s not always just in the morning, by the way). Most will also start feeling better by week 14 of gestation. Some pregnant people don’t get sick at all and others may be sick their entire pregnancies.
If you had horrible nausea and vomiting with your first child, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll experience that level of sickness again. Each pregnancy is unique. That said, feeling sick isn’t fun and can make it difficult to keep yourself and your baby hydrated, among other issues. This is where acupuncture comes in.
What is acupuncture ?
Acupuncture is a treatment in which thin needles, heat or pressure are applied to various points along the skin. These points are connected to invisible energy channels called meridians.
According to the theory of acupuncture, established thousands of years ago, an essential life energy called qi (pronounced “chee”) flows through the body along these meridians. When the flow of this energy is blocked or out of balance, illness or ailments result. Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that stimulating those points with needles, heat or pressure will correct the flow of qi, increase blood circulation, alleviate pain, relax muscles and control Nausea and Vomiting.
Research about acupuncture and sickness during pregnancy
In a study carried out in 2002, pregnant women (up to fourteen weeks) who received weekly acupuncture treatment over a four-week period reported less nausea and dry retching compared to the women who didn’t receive treatment. This Study concluded that Acupuncture is a very effective modality for treating and preventing morning sickness.
Another study, this one from 2000, examined the more immediate effects of acupuncture on vomiting into a more severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum. Acupuncture was administered three times a day for a 30 minutes session. All women in the study were vomiting on day 0 (the start of the study). By day 3, only 7 out of the 17 participants in the acupuncture group were vomiting. On day 4, even fewer women in the treatment group were vomiting. Women in the active treatment group also consumed more food overall than in the placebo group.
How Does Acupuncture help reduce nausea and vomiting:
Acupuncture increases the secretion of endorphins and ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) from the pituitary gland which inhibits the center of the brain that are responsible for nausea and vomiting.
Acupuncture acts on the upper gastrointestinal tract to decrease stomach acid secretion. Increased stomach acid can lead to nausea, bloating and Gastric Reflux or heartburn. The hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy can relax the muscles of the esophagus and slow down stomach emptying which can push stomach acid up towards the esophagus.
Acupuncture reduces stress and promotes relaxation by stimulating the production of hormones to enhance feelings of wellbeing. Acupuncture also initiate the relaxation response by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system; this is what slows down the body and helps it adapt to stress.
How long does it take for acupuncture to work for morning sickness?
Acupuncture may work relatively quickly for morning sickness for some people. It has been recommended to come once or twice per week during the first trimester. This will of course be dependent on the severity and occurrence of your morning sickness, your personal constitution, medical history and how quickly your body responds to the acupuncture treatment. Your acupuncturist will monitor progress and advise you on a treatment plan during your consultation.
Risks of acupuncture while pregnant
Acupuncture can be totally safe if you go to a licensed professional who is trained to treat patients during pregnancy such as Esther Hornstein L.Ac. The majority of adverse reactions are mild. Reactions include things like:
temporary discomfort where the needles are inserted
There are some acupuncture points so-called “forbidden points” that most acupuncturists will avoid during pregnancy (even though there are no strong evidence that stimulating these points puts pregnant women or their babies at risk). The good news here is that the P6 point, which is most often used to help with nausea/vomiting, isn’t one of the forbidden points. Be reassured that during your first consultation, prior to treatment with Esther Hornstein L.Ac acupuncturist, you will be given a time to discuss and report any health issues, concerns related to pregnancy or general wellbeing.
Dietary and lifestyle tips for morning sickness
Dietary and lifestyle factors play a big role during pregnancy and can significantly impact how you feel and what symptoms you experience.
Eat frequently, either small meals or snacks, to help maintain your blood sugar levels. Nausea can increase when you get hungry. Keep some nuts, fruit or a homemade granola bar handy in your bag and by your bedside table.
eat something before you get out of bed in the morning
eat bland foods, like bananas, rice, applesauce, toast
add more protein to your diet — lean meats, nuts and seeds, dairy products
Stay hydrated by drinking 8 to 12 cups of fluids each day such as water and herbal teas. If you have been vomiting lots, you may need to increase your intake of electrolytes to maintain water balance in the body 9 speak to your doctor).
Peppermint is an amazing tool for quelling nausea, add a few leaves in hot water.
Avoid coffee and stimulants such as tea or cola as they can exacerbate symptoms.
Ginger has been used for centuries to treat morning sickness, especially in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It contains compounds which promote an anti-nausea effect and increase gastric tone and motility to aid digestion. Ginger can be taken as a tea, capsule or tablet.
Consult with Esther Hornstein L.Ac (licensed acupuncturist) to ensure you are prescribed the correct dose of herbs for your needs. You may also choose to have a consultation with a board-certified herbalist.
Acupressure and Anti-Nausea Wristbands
Acupressure using your fingers or Wristband put pressure on the P6 acupressure point. Stimulation of this point has been found to reduce duration and frequency of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
Sickness is a distressing symptom during pregnancy, making women lose their appetite and feel awful. Hormonal changes, low blood sugar levels and stress can trigger symptoms so eating little and often, and avoiding trigger foods and caffeine is a must.
Using acupuncture can bring the body back into balance, promote relaxation and stimulate the release of hormones which block the signals to the vomiting center in the brain.
Herbal supplement such as ginger can also be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting.
Make an appointment with Esther Hornstein L.Ac, our pregnancy acupuncturist specialist, to help you manage your morning sickness naturally.
How to choose an Acupuncturist
It is important to find a Trained and Experienced practitioner Acupuncturist. Diplomats of acupuncture have at least four years of academic training at the master’s level, must pass rigorous exams and meet state licensing and continuing education requirements.
Esther Hornstein is a New York State licensed acupuncturist and diplomat in acupuncture. with continuous professional update.
In her Therapeutic Holistic approach, she addresses Pediatric ailments, Men & Women’s health, Pain management and overall Wellness.
Her private practice is in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. 2nd nature Healing Center, 34 Nachal Hakishon.
tel: 054 719 9600
To make an appointment you may:
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