While pregnancy is of course a natural state, a woman’s body has to accommodate the various changes that occur. Morning sickness is a common example of the effects of this ‘accommodation’. It is not a pathology or ‘illness’; it is instead part of a normal physiological process. In cases where the morning sickness is very severe acupuncture is a safe and effective way to treat the symptoms.
Why does it Happen?
There are various accounts in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as to why morning sickness occurs. The main one is that morning sickness is a result of a ‘strain’ on the body’s resources leading to a deficiency in the area of digestive health. It can also be seen from the point of view of the emotions: if there are anxieties and worries this likewise can give rise to nausea and vomiting. It will depend on the particular circumstances of each individual case and of course it is possible that both physical and emotional causes might co‐exist.
Morning sickness is often a misnomer. In severe cases the sickness occurs throughout the day andcan be quiet over‐powering. It can also happen that a woman will have mild ‘morning sickness’ for one pregnancy but very severe for another. The reason is most likely that the woman’s overall health may have changed. In very severe cases, especially if the condition goes beyond the first trimester (the normal phase for morning sickness), it may be that in addition to the effects of pregnancy, there is also an underlying, pre‐existing ‘pathology’ which becomes more evident because of the pregnancy.
Treatment will concentrate firstly on alleviating the nausea and vomiting. Some clients have come to me wearing a ‘wrist band’ they had bought from a pharmacy – it is a wrist band with a ‘ball’ that is positioned on the inside of the wrist. This ball puts pressure on a particular acupuncture point which is frequently needled in acupuncture for nausea and vomiting. In my opinion, the needling of this point is much more effective than the application of pressure.
It is also possible and very effective to needle above the umbilicus area. This is safe in the first three months of pregnancy but not after that. I always explain this to my clients and only proceed if they are perfectly content with this approach. The main points above the umbilicus are centrally located.
If there is evidence of an underlying condition or ‘pathology’ contributing to the morning sickness
that should be treated also.
Some symptoms that will indicate underlying patterns are:
Deficiency Symptoms: slight sickness, feeling cold, poor appetite; dry mouth but desire to drink in small sips.
Excess Symptoms: abdominal or epigastric distension, belching, vomiting soon after eating, thirst, bleeding gums, profuse vomiting, vomiting with mucus, dizziness, feeling of oppression in chest. Palpitations and anxiety can indicate either deficiency or excess, depending on the particular circumstances. Some of these excess symptoms indicate what is termed in TCM as an ‘accumulation of phlegm’ (vomiting mucus, dizziness, oppression in chest). I have treated clients with these symptoms and find that they can be virtually incapacitated by the severity of the nausea. In one such case after one acupuncture session the severity, according to the client, went from ‘10 out of 10’ to ‘5 out of 10’.
For deficiency symptoms very often tonification of the digestive system is required.
Diet can also help. Eating favourite, easily digestible food in frequent but light snacks/meals is
advised. Raw, chilled, oily or ‘slimy’ foods should be avoided. It is also worth experimenting with
fresh ginger by rubbing it on the tongue before eating as this is thought to help prevent vomiting of
Why does it respond well to Acupuncture?
The reason why morning sickness responds well to acupuncture is probably due to the fact that, by
definition, it is not a chronic, long‐term condition. Even in cases where the underlying pattern is
difficult to treat the presenting symptoms of nausea and vomiting should be significantly reduced.
Written by Sean Jennings is a fully qualified, registered acupuncturist
Blanchardstown, Dublin 15 and Ashbourne, Co. Meath.
Website is www.seanjenningsacupuncture.com