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Struggling with Pregnancy Nausea? Try Acupuncture

Pregnancy nausea is a common condition that affects many expectant mothers. We discuss why it happens and how to manage it with acupuncture.

Young expecting mother on sofa, suffering from pregnancy nausea

Pregnancy nausea is a common condition that can affect many expectant mothers and negatively impact their day-to-day activities. Though its exact cause is not fully understood, it’s believed to be caused by hormonal changes in the body. It usually occurs in the first trimester of pregnancy and may serve a protective function.

Can Pregnancy Nausea be a Good Sign?

Pregnant woman lying in bed, feeling nauseous
Nausea and vomiting may serve a protective function in the early stages of pregnancy.

Nausea and vomiting have long been considered early signs of pregnancy for over 2,000 years. Although the severity of symptoms varies from person to person, in most cases, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy are not harmful to the mother or the developing foetus. In fact, a 2016 study revealed that nausea (with or without vomiting) is linked to a 50% to 75% reduction in the risk of miscarriage. But what are the causes of nausea

  • Hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy include the increase in levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and oestrogen. These can affect the digestive system and cause nausea and vomiting, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. 
  • Stress, fatigue, and a woman’s sensitivity to certain smells and tastes are factors that can also contribute to feelings of nausea as the body changes during pregnancy. 

Pregnancy Nausea in TCM

Pregnant woman standing in front of open refrigerator, eating cake
A poor diet, stress, and other factors can affect a pregnant woman, making her more sensitive to hormonal changes.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), pregnancy nausea is a result of a disruption of the body’s qi, leading to imbalances and discomfort. “Most women experience varying degrees of dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, loss of appetite, change in food preferences, aversion towards greasy food, nausea, and vomiting in the early stages of pregnancy, usually around the first six to 12 weeks of pregnancy,” says TCM Physician Tiang Sack Sing. 

“Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that this is related to the physical constitution of the pregnant women,” explains Physician Tiang. An expectant mother is easily affected by emotional stress, poor diet, or environmental factors since her body is in a state of flux, making her more sensitive to the hormonal changes that occur. But there are treatments to help manage symptoms. 

Acupuncture and Other TCM Remedies 

A recent article published in Frontiers in Medicine cited acupuncture as an effective non-pharmaceutical method for treating severe nausea and vomiting (by inserting needles into the nei guan (PC6, 內关) acupoint—located on the inside of the wrist.

nei guan
Nei guan is located on the front of the forearm, three-finger breadths above the transverse crease of the wrist.

“If acupuncture is required, the stimulation should be light rather than heavy, and the selection of acupuncture points is also important. But massaging the acupuncture points or applying herbal plasters to the acupuncture points can help to relieve the discomfort.”  

TCM Physician Tiang Sack Sing

  • Acupressure on the nei guan acupoint is commonly targeted for pregnancy nausea. “The acupuncture points are used to stimulate the qi of the meridians and internal organs to achieve therapeutic effects. This avoids any medication from irritating the gastrointestinal tract and allows the active ingredients of TCM to be absorbed into the body through the skin. Usually, the nei guan acupuncture point will be gently massaged or applied with ginger slices to alleviate symptoms of dizziness, nausea, and vomiting,” clarifies Physician Tiang. 
  • Ginger (sheng jiang, 生姜) is a natural remedy that can help reduce nausea. “Consuming ginger slices orally or drinking ginger water with brown sugar in small amounts frequently can also relieve the discomfort in early pregnancy,” suggests Physician Tiang. It can help those with a weak Spleen and stomach, which cause nausea, vomiting, inability to eat, loss of taste, fatigue, and drowsiness. 

Clinical Treatments 

Other treatments that can help manage nausea and vomiting during pregnancy include: 

  • Medication: Some medications are considered safe to use during pregnancy, such as vitamin B6, antihistamines, and some prescription medications. These medications may be necessary when symptoms persist or are severe. 
  • Lifestyle changes: Tweaking your diet and lifestyle to help alleviate symptoms can include eating small meals more frequently, avoiding spicy and fatty foods, staying hydrated, and getting enough rest. 

Preparing for Pregnancy

Nourishing health food bird's nest helps harmonise the body's system.
Prep for pregnancy with qireplenishing food and herbs.

Condition the body before pregnancy by replenishing central qi and strengthening the Spleen and stomach, advises Physician Tiang. “The strengthening of the body can relieve symptoms that are caused by the release of pregnancy hormones during the early stages of pregnancy.”  

Under the guidance of a licensed TCM practitioner, you can make soup with chicken, bone broth, and medicinal herbs containing qi-replenishing and blood-regulating properties such as Ba Zhen Soup (八珍汤). 

EYS Bird’s Nest is a great supplement for expectant mothers suffering from pregnancy nausea. It promotes a healthier Spleen, stomach, and Lungs, and provides nutrients such as water-soluble amino acids, glycoproteins, minerals, and vitamins for both mother and child. 

Are you trying to conceive? Bookmark the article if you’ve found it useful and send it to other loved ones who may be expecting.

References

  1. British Journal of General Practice. 2020. Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is not just ‘morning sickness’: data from a prospective cohort study in the UK. [Online] [Accessed on 15 February 2023]  
  2. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2021. The onset of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. [Online] [Accessed on 15 February 2023] 
  3. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2016. Association of Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy With Pregnancy Loss A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial. [Online] [Accessed on 15 February 2023]
  4. Science.org. 2018. Researchers converge on possible cause for severe morning sickness. [Online] [Accessed on 15 February 2023] 
  5. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2021. The onset of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. [Online] [Accessed on 15 February 2023] 
  6. Frontiers in Medicine. 2022. Emerging Progress in Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy and Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Challenges and Opportunities. [Online] [Accessed on 15 February 2023] 
  7. JAMA. 2016. Treatments for Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy. [Online] [Accessed on 15 February 2023]

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