Morning sickness is a condition that occurs naturally during pregnancy. Studies show that between 50-80% of all women experience some nausea or vomiting while pregnant, which usually subsides with time.
However, between 1-2% suffer a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum - morning sickness which is so severe and long-lasting that it can cause weight loss, dehydration, and even hospitalisation.
Could acupuncture help?
Research has established that acupuncture is successful in treating sickness from any cause. It has been used for several decades for treating seasickness, nausea and vomiting after operations and in women recovering from breast surgery, including mastectomies. A study from Australia shows that acupuncture can help relieve morning sickness for pregnant women.
"Women now have an additional option to manage their morning sickness" said research co-ordinator, Dr Caroline Smith. "Our results have shown that as little as one acupuncture treatment can significantly change the way these women feel."
The study involved nearly 600 women who were less than 14 weeks pregnant with symptoms of nausea or vomiting.They were given weekly 20-minute sessions of acupuncture for four weeks. Dr Smith, from the Women's and Children's Hospital and Adelaide University said: "We found that acupuncture reduced nausea throughout the trial with dry retching being reduced from the second week."
Hyperemesis - the more severe form of morning sickness - can also be helped
Another study, which was only carried out on a small number of women, also demonstrated benefit for the group of women who are severely affected.
However limited, the authors said the study "confirms the results from other studies on the effectiveness of manual acupuncture, acupressure, electroacupuncture, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation in the acupuncture point PC6 against different types of nausea/vomiting." They concluded that although further testing must be conducted, "the present study · strongly indicates that acupuncture has a clinically useful effect in hyperemesis gravidarium."
Carlsson C, et al. Manual acupuncture reduces hyperemesis gravidarum: a placebo-controlled, randomized, single-blind, crossover study. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management October 2000;20(4):273-279.
A DIY treatment
This is definitely one that you can try at home, and we always suggest this first when women ring up to ask about acupuncture for morning sickness. The wrist bands that you can buy for seasickness and travel sickness at Boots, Sainsburys and the other major chemists stimulate the same acupuncture wrist points that were used for the study above. They have also been used successfully for the treatment of sickness after operations and with chemotherapy.
They will cost less than £10. They come in pairs but you only need one. One large study with patients who had sickness because of chemotherapy showed that the best effect came from;
- place a wrist band on the dominant wrist (if you are right handed that will be the dominant wrist)
- position the button over the point PC6 which lies in the middle of the inner side of the wrist an inch or so above the wrist crease. The bands come with instructions and a diagram which should help you find the point.
- massage the button gently in a circular motion for a minute. Leave the band on the wrist.
- massage the point for a minute every hour on the hour throughout the day.
- you can take the band off at night or if it is getting uncomfortable
If that doesn't work, then it is worth trying some acupuncture.