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How does acupuncture help with morning sickness during pregnancy?

Morning sickness. Two words that somehow seem to effortlessly dismiss something that, for many women, has the potential to sour what is otherwise the hopefully joyful experience of carrying a child.


Luckily, acupuncture can be an extremely effective way of combating the nausea many women experience – and it can also help relieve other problems that can be common in pregnancy, like back ache.

Morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum?

There are two types of nausea that are commonly associated with pregnancy – morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum. Of the two, hyperemesis gravidarum is considered more serious and tends to last longer.

The good news is that acupuncture can help alleviate the symptoms of both.

Let’s start with morning sickness, and the first thing to say is that the term ‘morning’ sickness is something of a misnomer because as many women will tell you, feeling or being sick during pregnancy doesn’t just happen before lunch!

Being sick – at whatever time of day or night – is a common complaint during the first trimester of a pregnancy (some women may experience this for longer than the first three months, too, although this is less common) and there is no single cause.

Hormone imbalances are considered to be the most prevalent cause of pregnancy-related nausea, but it may also be brought about by low blood sugar levels, and it can be more acute in cases where a woman is carrying twins or triplets, is under acute emotional stress, is suffering excessive fatigue.

Extensive travel may also be a contributory factor, though this has probably been less of an issue for the past 15 months!

The good news is that in most cases, the nausea of morning sickness passes quickly after each episode and most mums-to-be are able to get on with their day. But that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant or that women are happy to live with it.

In some cases, this nausea is more acute and may be accompanied by vomiting, weight loss, feeling faint and possible dehydration.

This condition is different to – and considered more serious than – morning sickness and is known as hyperemesis gravidarum (which literally translates as ‘serious vomiting’). Although it tends to disappear after the 20th week or pregnancy, it can last the full term.

How does acupuncture help with morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) nausea or sickness during pregnancy is often linked either to an imbalance between the liver and the spleen (or stomach) or to heat within the stomach.

Diagnosis between the two depends on whether a patient is displaying any additional symptoms, such as heartburn or loss of appetite.

By painlessly placing superfine needles under the skin in strategic locations linked to the source organ – in this case the liver, spleen, or stomach – acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing energy.

In the treatment of both morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum, this has a number of effects.

First, it increases the muscle contractions – known as peristalsis – that our bodies produce to move food through the digestive tract. This has the effect of calming the stomach, which in turn reduces or eliminates the involuntary retching or vomiting that is characteristic of both complaints.

However, as I always point out, acupuncture is also an holistic therapy and although condition- or symptom-specific treatments are designed to alleviate particular specific conditions, it’s impossible (and not desirable) to stop its general healing power.

That means there is an additional benefit to the patient in the reduction of emotional stress and the calming of the nervous system – both of which also positively contribute to patient outcomes.

Is it safe to have acupuncture during pregnancy?

This is a question I get asked by almost every pregnant lady I see – and it’s not only an understandable concern, but also a very important question.

The short answer here is that yes, it is perfectly safe to be treated with acupuncture during pregnancy.

Obviously, if you’re coming to see us for treatment relating to morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum then we will know you’re pregnant.

However, if you’re pregnant – and especially if you’re in your first trimester when you bump is unlikely to be obvious – and you’re coming for treatment that isn’t related to your pregnancy, it’s important you tell your acupuncturist you’re expecting because there are specific acupuncture points and techniques which are not safe for you to have while you’re pregnant.

If you’d like to find out more about how acupuncture can help treat morning sickness or hyperemesis during pregnancy, please get in touch with us for a confidential and obligation-free chat.


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