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By: Katherine Rowe, LAc, FABORM @ Triangle Acupuncture 

Many of the patients we treat at Triangle Acupuncture Clinic have struggled with infertility and are cautiously excited when they receive the news they are finally pregnant. Fast forward a couple weeks into the first trimester and many are so thankful for pregnancy but now also miserable as they suffer through long days of nausea. The thing is, nausea for an evening or couple of days is bearable. Relentless nausea that lasts for 6+ weeks is very hard. Preparing or shopping for food is almost impossible and sometimes, even drinking water is difficult.

Acupuncture has long been used to successfully alleviate nausea that accompanies early pregnancy. In fact, the Sea Sickness Wrist bands that you can buy at the drugstore utilize one of the main acupuncture points that help suppress nausea. These sea bands tend to help a little but since acupuncture points work in pairs and in combination with each other, accessing multiple points will give you much stronger nausea relief. Acupuncture is even helpful to those who take medications for nausea but aren’t getting completely better.

To date, more than three dozen randomized controlled studies have been published showing that acupuncture point stimulation can treat or prevent nausea and vomiting. One of the largest studies[1] on acupuncture for morning sickness enrolled 600 women and found that “acupuncture not only reduced nausea but improved women’s emotional well being and vitality.”

So how exactly does sticking tiny needles into specific points help so much?  The acupuncture points stimulate the nervous system and cause an increase in beta-endorphins and ACTH, our feel good hormones, while inhibiting the Chemoreceptor Trigger Zone (CTZ) and Vomiting Center in the brain.  Acupuncture also affects the upper GI tract by decreasing acid secretion and settling the muscle contractions within the stomach. The sum total of these effects for most women is that they have less nausea so that they can eat more easily, feel better in general and have more energy to go about their day.

We suggest our pregnant patients come in once/week during the first trimester to temper any morning sickness or nausea issues. Acupuncture for nausea is relaxing and gentle, and the treatments are usually very successful. While acupuncture during pregnancy is very safe, it is recommended that you see an acupuncturist experienced in pregnancy care.

[1] Smith C, Crowther C, Beilby J. Acupuncture to Treat Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy. Birth Vol29, Issue1, p1-9, March 2002