Morning Sickness

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have a long history of treating pregnancy-related ailments, including morning sickness and nausea. This successful track record has been confirmed by recent scientific research.

In 2002, Smith et al. published two articles from their research on pregnancy related nausea and vomiting. The first article looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture and the second focused on the safety of acupuncture treatment in early pregnancy.

Study Design
593 women who were less than 14 weeks pregnant formed the sample. The women were randomized and divided into 4 groups.

  • Traditional acupuncture group (Given customized treatment based on individual diagnosis)
  • Single acupuncture point group (All patients treated with the same acupuncture point, regardless of any individual diagnosis)
  • Sham acupuncture group (Patients were given acupuncture at sites near actual acupuncture points, but not treated with actual, known acupuncture sites)
  • No acupuncture group (The control group that received no acupuncture treatment)

All of the participants who received acupuncture got two acupuncture treatments in the first week followed by one weekly treatment for the next four weeks. Both the acupuncture group and the sham acupuncture group received their treatment from the same acupuncturist. The outcomes of treatment were measured in terms of nausea, dry retching, vomiting and health status.

The Results
When compared to the women who received no treatment; the traditional acupuncture group reported less nausea throughout the study and less dry retching with improvement beginning in the second week of treatment.

The single acupuncture point group reported less nausea from the second week and less dry retching with improvement beginning in the third week of treatment. The sham acupuncture group reported less nausea and dry retching with improvement beginning in the third week of treatment.

While all three acupuncture groups reported improvement with nausea and dry retching, it was the traditional acupuncture group that had the fastest response. Patients receiving traditional acupuncture also reported improvement in five aspects of general health status (vitality, social function, physical function, mental health and emotional role function) compared to improvement in two aspects with single acupuncture point and Sham acupuncture groups. In the no treatment group there was improvement in only one aspect.

In assessing the safety of acupuncture in early pregnancy data was collected on each of the following areas:

  • Perinatal outcome
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Status of the newborn

No differences were found between study groups in the incidence of these outcomes suggesting that there are no serious adverse effects from the use of acupuncture treatment in early pregnancy.

Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for women who experience nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy.

This is a very interesting study, as it explores the use of traditional diagnostic patterns compared to the use of a point formulated treatment. In doing so it provides information both to acupuncturists and the western medical health professions about the most effective use of acupuncture. This research provides reassurance to the medical profession that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment in early pregnancy as well as confirming the effectiveness of traditional diagnosis over using prescription point acupuncture.

If you are pregnant and are considering incorporating acupuncture treatment to maintain a healthy pregnancy or treat morning sickness, or if you have struggled with morning sickness during a previous pregnancy, we invite you to consider the benefits of our Fertility Wellness Program. Come and see how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help you to enjoy a safe and satisfying pregnancy.


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