Usually morning sickness is a good sign that the pregnancy is progressing well and often for women who have struggled to get pregnant it is a reassuring sign. But for some women it can be debilitating and even life threatening illness if they are constantly losing fluids through vomiting and unable to keep liquids down. They may struggle at home and work to function, as the sickness can come at time of the day or night. Emotionally it can be an isolating experience for women as they feel so ill most of the time and yet they may not be ready to tell people at work or friends and family they are pregnant.
Why nausea and vomiting happens: The Chinese Medicine View
From the moment a woman becomes pregnant, her womb and internal chemistry start to undergo profound changes, as her body is starting to build another human and effectively another organ, the placenta. The initial dynamic changes that are happening in the body can change the usual functioning of her organs, leading to nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture works by stimulating the body’s self-regulating mechanisms (often referred to as homeostasis), which enables efficient processing of hormones to reduce or stop the symptoms. It also reduces anxiety, despondency and helps the woman feel calm and relaxed.
Western medicine understands the sickness to be caused by increased hormone levels, smell sensitivity and possibly due an evolutionary adaptation to prevent the woman eating contaminated foods to protect the developing foetus before the placenta is fully operational. Also progesterone is relaxing all the smooth muscles in the body, including the oesophagus and oesophageal-gastric sphincter. Because these muscles are flaccid, it is easier for acidity to resurface up the oesophagus and cause nausea and sickness.
Treatment with acupuncture
I usually see a woman once or twice week, depending on the severity of the sickness. For very severe cases daily treatments may be necessary. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, a woman’s constitution (emotional and physical wellbeing) before conception is vital to a good pregnancy and birth. Any disharmony in this constitution can be become exacerbated during pregnancy. Consequently getting healthy in body and mind before a pregnancy – at least 3 months before conception – is important. As a Chinese Medicine practitioner I am able to give you dietary and lifestyle advice specific to your constitution. I also include knowledge from Western nutrition and lifestyle tips. So you get the best of both worlds!
My top tip for reducing nausea
Should you still have feelings of nausea or vomiting then my top tip is try acupressure. There are a number of points that help with nausea, though ‘P6’ on the inside of the forearm has had good results (mostly tested on people having chemotherapy to reduce the resulting sickness) but in clinical practice we have seen good results for pregnant women. Take some time to get the right location.
Location of the Nausea and Vomiting Point
- The acupressure point is three of the woman’s finger widths up from the crease of the inner wrist in the middle of the inner wrist between two tendons.
- Place pressure on the point and hold until the symptoms are relieved, usually within five minutes. You can use pressure on both wrists or only one, whatever is more practical at the time. Take care that the pressure exerted on the acupressure point is firm but not uncomfortable.
It is possible to buy a travel sickness wristband to help apply pressure to this point. They are available through chemists. Alternately you can make your own. Form a wristband with elastic and sew onto it a rounded button. Wear it with the rounded edge pressing into your skin.
This point will not work for every woman, as each woman’s constitution is different, other acupuncture points may be more effective and this is where a consultation with a skilled acupuncturist will help.