Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, also known as morning sickness, can greatly impact the pregnant woman’s life. Morning sickness occurs during about half of all pregnancies. For most pregnant women, morning sickness is a minor discomfort or inconvenience. However, some pregnant women experience hyperemesis gravidarum, which likely will require hospitalization to prevent dehydration. Morning sickness may occur any time, night or day, despite its name. While morning sickness and even a slightly decreased foot intake during periods of nausea are not a risk to the developing fetus, dehydration from lost fluids is always a concern.
There is no consensus on why morning sickness occurs. There are 3 predominant theories explaining why women experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy:
- Increases in hormone levels, specifically hCG and Estrogen. Debra Betts, a leading expert on acupuncture for labor and delivery in New Zealand, states that “a pregnant woman will produce as much [estrogen] during her pregnancy as she would in 150 years of normal menstrual cycle.”
- The brainstem, where the nervous system’s control center of nausea and vomiting lay, responds adversely to the increased level of hormones.
- Fatigue and stress. Most women say their nausea and morning sickness is worse during periods of stress or fatigue.
In Chinese medicine, we see slight morning sickness as a good sign. It is a normal response by the body to the presence of the fetus taking root in the womb. Additionally, the meridian by which menstrual blood reaches the uterus is now blocked by the guest in the womb. This meridian, known as the Chongmai, is closely related to the Stomach meridian. When the blood cannot descend for menstruation, it moves backwards into the Stomach meridian causing “Rebellious Qi.” Rebellious Qi presents itself, in the case of the Stomach, as nausea and vomiting of morning sickness.
An acupuncturist can give relief to women dealing with mild to moderate morning sickness. Severe morning sickness will require medical attention in most cases.
In addition to seeking treatment by an acupuncturist, here are some tips to try at home:
- Stay hydrated! Dry mouth and lips and decreased urinary output are a sign you are not getting adequate fluids. Some women report that plain water tastes bad during episodes of morning sickness and nausea. Try flavoring your water with fresh ginger or peppermint. Teas made with ginger, chamomile, or peppermint are also good. Light meat, chicken or vegetable broths are also a good thing to try.
- Try having lots of small snacks at regular intervals. This will keep your blood sugar even. Nuts and other snacks with both healthy fats and protein will be better than sugary carbohydrates, which will cause blood sugar levels to crash. However, relatively speaking, a sweet potato (carbohydrates with fiber) are better than candy.
- Foods thought to reduce nausea and vomiting of morning sickness are almonds, miso soup, rice porridge, potatoes, and baked vegetables. Anything easy to digest will be more likely to be tolerated during periods of nausea and vomiting. Dairy should most likely be avoided.