Congratulations! You’re pregnant!
The incredible joy and excitement of becoming pregnant often comes with a series of symptoms that can make a pregnancy pretty memorable, for better or worse :) One of the most common side effects of early pregnancy is morning sickness, which can for some women, manifest as mild nausea due to certain aromas or flavors, while in more extreme cases can lead to dry heaving and/or vomiting. And, as most pregnant women soon realize, the name of “morning sickness” is a bit of a misnomer as it can arrive at any point of the day or night.
Morning sickness is a common occurrence for many women in their early pregnancy. For most women it will subside by the end of their first trimester. But still for some it may last through the second trimester, or in extreme cases, throughout the entire pregnancy. In Chinese medicine, morning sickness is seen as being caused by a number of potential factors that your Chinese medicine practitioner will be able to decipher based on how your symptoms manifest. When Stomach Qi is healthy, it naturally flows downward to the small intestine for further separation before final elimination through the large intestine. When it is awry, Stomach Qi will move upward, leading to belching, hiccups, nausea, heartburn, acid reflux and/or vomiting.
Here are a few natural remedies that can help manage, reduce and possibly eliminate your morning sickness without side effects:
Acupuncture - Regular acupuncture is proven to be effective in taming rebellious Qi! As mentioned previously, when Stomach Qi is healthy, it moves downward. When a woman becomes pregnant, it is believed that the Conception vessel and the Penetrating vessel, which in non-pregnant circumstances support a healthy menses flow (downward), redirects Qi to support a growing fetus. This can interrupt the natural flow of stomach Qi into what we term “rebellious Qi”. Regular acupuncture treatments work to redirect Qi back to the proper direction to help nausea subside.
Hydration - Adequate hydration is especially important during and after pregnancy to help meet the physiological changes that occur during these important phases of the life cycle as well as to mitigate morning sickness. Drink at least 10 8 oz glasses of water per day, more if possible throughout your pregnancy. Signs of not being adequately hydrated include darker urine, dry/itchy skin, headaches, dry mouth and/or dry/cracked lips. Infusing fresh lemon or ginger to your water can also be effective in calming nausea (see below).
Tea - Properties of certain herbs and teas are known to soothe the Liver or calm Stomach Qi, which in turn helps mitigate morning sickness. Particularly peppermint, ginger, chamomile and shiso leaf tea, whether bagged, loose leaf or diffused, can be very calming to an upset stomach. Add lemon or honey for added effects.
Flavors - Similar to what’s mentioned above, sucking on certain flavors may have the same effects as calming the Liver or Stomach by way of aiding digestion and saliva flow. Ginger chews or peppermint can help calm the stomach, while a lemon lozenge or sour food, like umeboshi plums, has an astringent quality which helps keep rebellious Liver Qi in check.
Aromatherapy - Just as flavors can induce or reduce nausea in a pregnant woman, certain scents can be equally beneficial. When inhaled, the molecules from essential oils move from the nose or mouth to the lungs, brain and other parts of the body induce a calming effect. Scents such as lavender, chamomile, peppermint, citrus and ginger can be extremely helpful - sniff them directly from the bottle, or sniff a cotton ball, tissue or handkerchief treated with a drop or two.
Small meals throughout the day - When morning sickness strikes, gone are the days of reasonably maintaining three square meals. Often in pregnancy, a meal with essential nutrients seems impossible to attain due to the unpredictability of food cravings and aversions. Instead of forcing full meals, I encourage patients to eat small meals or snacks throughout the day to keep the stomach satiated. In particular, I suggest protein-rich snacks during the day and before bed to prevent rebellious Qi from rising - if you can’t stomach lean animal proteins at this stage, think of keeping nuts, seeds, nut butters, full-fat yogurt in stock.
Fresh air - While morning sickness can leave you far from feeling like a stroll outside, often you’re experiencing “stagnant Qi” that can benefit from a simple walk outside. Even stepping outside to take deeper breaths of fresh air without exercise can be often be beneficial to move stagnant Qi more freely through the lungs and throughout the rest of the body.