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Acupressure, Acustimulation Ease Morning Sickness

Acupressure, Acustimulation Ease Morning Sickness

October 18, 2001 By Suzanne Rostler

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Pregnant women who suffer from nausea and vomiting may find relief through the traditional Chinese technique of acupressure, or a modern variation on the technique in which electrical stimulation is delivered to the pressure point.

Both techniques helped women in early pregnancy who were experiencing morning sickness, according to two studies published in the September issue of The Journal of Reproductive Medicine.

Acupressure operates on the same principle as acupuncture, in which needles are used to put pressure on certain points of the body. The less invasive technique relies on the thumb or a button to apply pressure and lasts between 3 and 15 minutes. Acustimulation uses an electrical stimulus instead of pressure.

In both studies, women received pressure or electrical stimulation on an area above the wrist on the inside of the forearm known as the Neiguan, or P6, point. Stimulation of this point is thought to relieve nausea and vomiting related to morning sickness, as well as from chemotherapy and motion sickness.

To investigate, Elisabet Werntoft and Dr. Anna-Karin Dykes from Lund University in Sweden asked 60 healthy pregnant women who suffered from nausea and vomiting to wear an acupressure band at the Neiguan point, at another point (placebo point) or to use no treatment.

One day after the study began, women who wore bands at either point reported feeling less nauseous. But women who wore bands exerting pressure on the P6 point continued to feel less nauseous 14 days later, while those who wore bands at the placebo point began to experience symptoms after 6 days of relief.

"Our conclusion is that the method seems to be useful in reducing nausea in pregnancy and that if it is possible to eliminate this discomfort by wearing a wristband applying pressure at (the Neiguan point) it is worth trying," Werntoft and Dykes wrote.

The bands are cheap, are not associated with any side effects and deliver immediate benefits, the researchers added.

Indeed, many of the drugs used to treat nausea and vomiting may cause birth defects, noted Dr. R. Nathan Slotnick, the author of the second study. This leaves women who experience severe morning sickness--who may be at risk for dehydration, nutritional deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances--with few options.

"The cost of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy in terms of medical care and work time loss are staggering," Slotnick, from Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, told Reuters Health. He found that symptoms of morning sickness declined when women wore wristbands delivering electrical stimulation to the P6 point.

In the study, 41 pregnant women who reported nausea and vomiting in the early first trimester of pregnancy wore a band that is used to treat nausea caused by motion sickness, chemotherapy and pregnancy. After wearing the band for an average of about 2 months, most patients reported that they felt less nauseous and nearly all said they would use the device during a future pregnancy or recommend it to someone else.

Slotnick pointed out that 50% to 90% of pregnant women experience morning sickness or a more severe condition, hyperemesis gravidarum, in which women vomit several times a day.

Investigators of both studies had no financial connection to the makers of the products used in their research.

SOURCE: The Journal of Reproductive Medicine 2001;46:811-814, 835-839.



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