Pregnancy related nausea and vomiting is a common phenomenon among women, particularly in the first and second trimesters. Although there are a number of medications available on the market today that are designed to combat nausea and vomiting, pharmacological solutions are problematic when treating pregnant women. Although some medications, such as over the counter Emetrol, are considered safe to use while pregnant, they are not necessarily approved for morning sickness.1 Most physicians agree that avoiding exposure of the fetus to any unnecessary medication while pregnant is preferable. For an alternative medicine approach to the treatment of pregnancy related nausea, acupuncture has become a popular method explored by many women looking for a non-pharmacological solution to their distress. But is acupuncture a safe method for combating “morning sickness”?
There are differing opinions regarding the safety of acupuncture in pregnant women. Some practitioners feel that the technique is safe and can be very effective for the treatment of pregnancy related nausea, provided that the acupuncturist is aware of the condition of the patient and is careful to avoid utilizing any acupuncture points which might encourage the induction of labor. Other acupuncturists feel that acupuncture is contraindicated for pregnant women, and prefer not to treat them at all.
A possible alternative to acupuncture, which may be a better and safer option for the treatment of pregnancy related nausea, is acupressure. Acupressure is similar in theory to acupuncture and is often used by practitioners in conjunction with acupuncture therapy. Utilizing the same points employed by acupuncture, acupressure achieves its benefit from the application of pressure to the points, rather than by the insertion of needles. What results is a similar, if occasionally less intense, effect to the body’s systems to that achieved by acupuncture. However, the movement of energy in the body is somewhat less powerful. In some non-pregnant patients, acupressure is preferred to acupuncture as well, depending on the type of imbalance the body is experiencing.
The application of acupressure as a modality of treatment for pregnancy related nausea, and as an alternative to medications or even to acupuncture treatment, has become extremely popular in recent years. The most common acupuncture point utilized for the quelling of nausea is located on the underside of the wrist, approximately three finger-breadths above where the wrist meets the bottom of the palm of the hand, and in line with the ring finger. Because of the simplicity of finding this point’s location and the ease with which it can be accessed, pregnant women experiencing the nausea of “morning sickness” will often press their fingers into this point when a wave of nausea hits them.
This acupuncture point is called the P6 acupuncture point. This means that it is the sixth point of the Pericardium meridian, one of the twelve main meridians (or systems of acupuncture points) located in the body. The point P6, as a treatment for nausea, has in recent years become popular enough in acceptance and utilization that there are now several commercial products on the market for the relief of motion sickness, like Sea-Band and ReliefBand, which apply pressure to this area of the wrist.2
Another popular alternative remedy for pregnancy related nausea and vomiting is the ingestion of ginger. Ginger can come in many forms, including teas, ginger ale, and fresh, raw ginger. There is some differing of opinion regarding the safety of this method, however. Because ginger contains some compounds that cause chromosomal mutation in the test tube, some doctors are concerned about the safety of using ginger during pregnancy. However, the available clinical research, combined with the fact that ginger is widely used in the diets of many cultures, suggests that prudent use of ginger for morning sickness is probably safe in amounts up to 1 gram per day.3, 4
Another option that can be useful in combating “morning sickness” is the use of Vitamin B6. According to the website BabyCenter.com, research indicates that it works for a number of women and it’s been consistently shown to be safe when taken in commonly recommended doses.5
While there is some dissenting opinion about whether acupuncture is safe for the treatment of pregnancy related nausea and vomiting, alternatives to pharmacological interventions exist that may help provide some relief. However, while acupressure, ginger, and Vitamin B6 are thought to be safe and effective remedies, it is important that all women consult their health care provider before beginning any therapy, whether traditional or alternative in nature.
1. BabyCenter.com (2006). “Is it safe to take anti-nausea medication during pregnancy?” .Available online: http://www.babycenter.com/expert/pregnancy/isitsafe/1366869.html. (Downloaded: April 9, 2006).
2. Quinlan JD, Hill, DA. Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. American Family Physician 2003;68:121-134.
3. TrueStarHealth.com (2006). “Morning sickness” Available online: http://www.truestarhealth.com/Notes/1046004.html. (Downloaded: April 9, 2006).
4. Fulder S, Tenne M. Ginger as an anti-nausea remedy in pregnancy and the issue of safety. HerbalGram 1996;38:47-50.
5. BabyCenter.com (2006). “What can I do to get relief?” .Available online: http://www.babycenter.com/refcap/pregnancy/morningsickness/254.html. (Downloaded: April 9, 2006).