There are a lot of reasons why women come to see me for acupuncture during the course of a pregnancy. Hands down, the majority of women I see in their first trimester are suffering from morning sickness. Symptoms can range from mild nausea to excessive vomiting (hyperemesis gravidarum) which could lead to dehydration and hospitalization. Despite it's name, 'morning sickness' can be experienced at any time of day or night.
There are a number of theories as to why morning sickness occurs. Your body is going through a ton of hormonal changes, so it's not at all incredibly surprising that it happens. The hormone hCG (human Chorionic Gonadotropin), the one that creates the plus or minus sign on a pregnancy test, increases as it starts to form the placenta, and is thought to be the main culprit. Estrogen levels increase as well. In fact, a pregnant woman will produce as much estrogen during her pregnancy as she would in 150 years of normal menstrual cycles. In addition to reproductive hormonal changes, you might start to feel anxious and nervous. Stress produces hormones, too. Typically, nausea and vomiting subside by the 12th to 14th week, but unfortunately for some women it may continue later into pregnancy. Luckily, acupuncture can help at any stage. Apart from helping offset the symptoms created by hormonal changes, acupuncture can work on your digestive system directly. It can also help ease anxiety and reduce stress hormones.
According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) there are a number of reasons you may experience morning sickness. Our diagnosis may sound a little different than a traditional western diagnosis. We might say something like, you have "Liver Qi invading the Stomach" or "Spleen Qi Deficiency." Our diagnosis is different from patient to patient and so is the treatment. It makes sense that while some women's nausea is helped by ginger tea, others might find relief from lemonade. According to TCM, they probably have a different pattern of imbalance. In addition to acupuncture treatment, there are some things you can try at home to help combat morning sickness. If you are suffering from excessive vomiting, please contact your physician.
It may not feel like drinking fluids relieves nausea, but even becoming slightly dehydrated will make nausea worse. Feeling thirsty, dry lips, and decreased urinary output are signs that you aren't getting enough fluids. If you are having trouble drinking fluids in quantity, try smaller amounts. Soups and broths, herbal teas, ice cubes, and watery fruits such as melons or pears may be helpful as well. If burping makes you feel better, I recommend carbonated beverages, particularly ginger based, but steer clear of super sugary soft drinks. Here's a list of drinks and liquids that may be helpful:
- Chamomile Tea
- Ginger Ale
- Ginger Tea
- Mineral Water with Lemon Juice
- Peppermint Tea
- Potato Soup (because it's bland)
- 1 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar in Hot Water with Honey
Food & Snacks
Having small regular snacks help to keep blood sugar levels stable and nausea down. This means having a snack every hour or two. It can be a small snack like some raisins and nuts, a sandwich, or a piece of fruit. Sugary foods should be avoided to help keep blood sugar levels normal, but can be replaced with slower releasing carbohydrates such as fruit, potatoes, pasta, bread, and rice. It seems that carbs and proteins are the best to reduce nausea and some women find it best to have a high protein snack at night before bed such as nuts or yogurt, and a carbohydrate-based snack upon waking such as toast or crackers. Plan ahead so that you have something with you to snack on throughout the day. These foods are good to snack on to help reduce morning sickness:
- Dried Fruits (especially raisins and apricots)
- Commercial Baby Food
- Potatoes (in any form)
- Peanut Butter or other Nut Butter
It can be incredibly difficult to reconcile body changes and the usual demands of work and family, especially in the first weeks of pregnancy. Resting is definitely beneficial for women experiencing morning sickness. If possible, take the time to rest at the time of day when you are feeling most prone to feeling sick. It might be weird to feel the urge to go to bed at 7 pm instead of your usual 11 pm time, but go right ahead. This is a message from your body telling you you need more rest.
Your doctor might prescribe you an antiemetic to reduce nausea and vomiting. There are some additional supplements you can try as well:
- Vitamin B6 - 50mg up to 4 times a day
- Ginger Capsules - 1 capsule 4 times a day
- Magnesium - Can be found in nuts, pumpkin seeds, beans, wheatgerm, avocado, and broccoli
- Potassium - can be found in dried apricots, bananas, melons, and figs
Overwhelming sensitivities to odors is not uncommon and can certainly set off a bout of nausea. Natural smells like citrus can be useful, and I recommend keeping a lemon in your purse when you go out in public. Aromatic oil burners can help at home or in your work space. Find an essential oil that appeals to you
For many pregnant ladies, it winds up being a waiting game for morning sickness to pass, but these tips combined with acupuncture treatment can greatly reduce your symptoms. Call for a consultation and treatment today!