Morning sickness is one of the most common problems experienced by pregnant women. Although it is called morning sickness, this intense nausea and vomiting can happen at any time of day. It is most common during the first few months of pregnancy, but some women suffer from morning sickness throughout their entire pregnancy.
It is thought that morning sickness occurs as a result of the drastic hormonal changes that happen to a woman’s body after she conceives. The symptoms can be aggravated by tiredness and emotional stress, which are also common issues during pregnancy.
A Traditional Chinese Medicine View of Morning Sickness
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), morning sickness is a result of changes in a very special acupuncture channel called the chong mai, or “penetrating vessel.” This channel is extraordinary as it lies deep within the body and has no acupuncture points on the surface of the skin. This channel acts as a reservoir for blood and qi, two of the body’s most vital substances which are crucial for physical and mental health.
Each month a woman’s chong mai fills up with so much blood that it overflows into the uterus, causing menstruation. However, when she becomes pregnant, this no longer happens as the extra blood is required to nourish the developing baby. It is these changes in the chong mai during pregnancy which allow morning sickness to occur.
The chong mai has a very close connection with the uterus, and also with the Stomach. The qi of the Stomach should normally flow downwards, allowing digested food to move smoothly into the intestines. However, when the chong mai becomes imbalanced, this can cause the Stomach’s qi to change direction and flow upwards instead. This condition is known as “rebellious qi” and this is the cause of morning sickness from a TCM point of view.
In addition to changes in the chong mai, there are some other factors which can contribute to morning sickness in TCM. These can be identified by the subtle differences in symptoms which women with morning sickness suffer from.
For example, a woman who has symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, a sensation of fullness in the central abdomen, and a lack of appetite (although food and drink may offer temporary relief) may be suffering from weakness or excess cold in the Stomach.
Women who have similar symptoms but also feel weak and fatigued have heavy limbs, or sweat easily could be suffering from a deficiency of the Spleen, another organ which plays a vital role in digestion in TCM.
Women who vomit immediately after eating and feel constantly thirsty may have too much heat in their Stomach, and women who suffer from belching, a sour taste in the mouth, irritability, or depression may be suffering from a Liver imbalance.
It is essential to receive a diagnosis from a qualified TCM practitioner so that you can get the treatment that is most appropriate for you. When you come for your initial consultation, our acupuncturist will ask you about your symptoms, lifestyle, and medical history in detail so that the cause of your morning sickness can be accurately diagnosed. You will then be provided with acupuncture treatment which is tailored to your individual needs as well as personalized dietary and lifestyle advice, and other homecare tips for morning sickness.
How Acupuncture Helps to Treat Morning Sickness
Acupuncture can help to treat morning sickness in some different ways. From a TCM perspective, it can help to harmonize the chong mai and correct any imbalances in your Stomach, Spleen, or Liver.
From the viewpoint of modern medicine, acupuncture may help to regulate hormonal levels, one of the leading causes of morning sickness. It can also help to calm the nervous system and promote relaxation to relieve symptoms such as stress and anxiety. One research study on acupuncture for morning sickness carried out by Smith et al. (2002) found that after two weeks, women who received acupuncture reported significantly less nausea and dry retching than those who did not.
Is Acupuncture Safe During Pregnancy?
Acupuncture is a natural therapy which works in harmony with your body to promote a state of health and wellbeing. It is therefore safe for people of all ages and levels of fitness, including pregnant women.
A study by Park et al. (2014) found that using acupuncture during pregnancy carries a low risk of side effects and that any side effects which do occur are likely to be temporary and minor. Some of the most common side effects that pregnant women experience after acupuncture include slight bleeding at the acupuncture point, bruising at the acupuncture point, or increased tiredness.
Although acupuncture during pregnancy is considered safe for both mother and baby, there are specific acupuncture points which need to be used with more care than usual. This is why it is essential to visit a well-qualified acupuncturist who is experienced in treating pregnant women and will ensure that you get the extra care you need.
Here at Ravenswood, our acupuncturist is an expert at caring for pregnant women and is experienced in the treatment of morning sickness and other pregnancy-related issues. Contact us at 773-878-7330 to book an appointment or find out more.
Smith C, Crowther C, Beilby J (2002) “Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial” Birth Vol. 29(1) pp. 1-9
Park J, Sohn Y, White A, Lee H (2014) “The safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: a systematic review” Acupuncture in Medicine Vol. 32(3) pp. 257-266