Acupuncture for Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy
Nausea and vomiting are thought to occur in approximately 50% of all pregnancies. Although often referred to as ‘morning sickness’, the symptoms can actually occur at any time of the day or night. Usually nausea and vomiting occurs between the sixth and sixteenth weeks of pregnancy, but some women can experience it right from the start, and for some it continues throughout the whole pregnancy. For some women it can be simply a mild sensation of nausea, whilst others vomit several times a day.
Severe vomiting can lead to dehydration, which can in turn lead to hospitalization so as to restore the lost intravenous fluids.
Conventional treatment aims to minimize symptoms by making suitable lifestyle changes, for example getting plenty or rest and drinking small amounts of fluid often. If this fails, a short course of a suitable anti-sickness medication may be prescribed by the GP.
Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy and TCM
Acupuncture can be an invaluable form of treatment during pregnancy, especially since many women are reluctant to take medication during pregnancy, and many drugs are not suitable for use during pregnancy anyway.
Nausea and vomiting in TCM are seen as being caused by the Qi of the stomach reversing its usual direction of flow, or ‘rebelling’. Acupuncture can be very effective at ‘subduing’ rebellious stomach Qi. In addition, it is necessary to discover why this is happening, which is to say, what the underlying disharmony of the woman’s energy is which is leading the stomach Qi to become rebellious, and cause nausea or vomiting. The acupuncture treatment administered will subsequently be tailored to address this issue as well as the physical symptoms to stop the woman’s symptoms from recurring after treatment.
Treatment of nausea and vomiting with acupuncture usually involves the insertion of a small number of very fine acupuncture needles at key points on the body which have been proven to help subdue stomach Qi, and so stop nausea and vomiting. Sometimes relief is immediate, although regular treatments are usually required, especially if the patient is experiencing vomiting as well as nausea.
Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Nausea & Vomiting in Pregnancy?
A 2002 trial conducted in Adelaide, Australia on 593 women suffering from nausea and vomiting found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for nausea and dry retching1. “Our results have shown that as little as one acupuncture treatment can significantly change the way these women feel,” said research co-ordinator Dr Caroline Smith2.
The British Acupuncture Council have also published a briefing paper on NVP which can be accessed at by clicking on Research, followed by Documents. This paper is also available from our clinic on request.
1 Smith C. et al (2002) Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: A randomized controlled trial Birth 29 (1)
The Sean Barkes Clinic does not claim to cure any conventional medical disease states. Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to re-establish and maintain the harmonious function of the human body-mind using tried and tested principles that have been discovered and matured over millennia. A Western medical diagnosis provides very little by way of insight in informing a Chinese Medical diagnosis. Patients usually recognise their own condition in terms of the medical disease category that they have been given by their GP or other conventional medical practitioner. The research presented here is merely an indication of the potential to draw parallels between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Western Medicine.