Eastern and Western Medicine Combo May Relieve 'Morning Sickness'

Results of a new study suggest a combination of acupuncture and doxylamine-pyridoxine may help tame nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy.

Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP), AKA "morning sickness," is likely one of the most dreaded aspects of being pregnant. It occurs in about 80% of pregnancies, with symptoms ranging from mild queasiness to severe vomiting.

Though exactly what causes NPV is unclear, health experts believe specific hormones circulating during pregnancy, such as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and significant shifts in estrogen and progesterone might be a factor.

Even though NVP has plagued pregnant individuals since humans first walked the earth, there are few, if any, effective treatment strategies that help tame the symptoms.

Now, a new study published on June 20 in Annals of Internal Medicine found that combining doxylamine-pyridoxine — an antihistamine and vitamin B6 combo used to treat NVP — and acupuncture relieved pregnancy-related moderate to severe nausea and vomiting.

In the randomized, controlled, double-blinded trial, researchers recruited 352 women in early pregnancy with moderate to severe NVP. The team administered either active or sham acupuncture for 30 minutes a day and/or doxylamine-pyridoxine or placebo for 14 days.

Their goal was to determine if one treatment or a combination of treatments safely and effectively reduced NVP symptoms.

The scientists found that active acupuncture and doxylamine–pyridoxine on their own were modestly more effective at reducing symptoms than placebo or sham acupuncture. However, combining the two treatments offered participants significantly more relief from morning sickness symptoms.

Still, the team also found that compared with a placebo, doxylamine–pyridoxine was associated with a higher risk of babies born small for their gestational age.

Because of these and other concerns about safety during pregnancy, the study authors say that healthcare providers may be hesitant to prescribe anti nausea drugs. In addition, many pregnant individuals may share these concerns and refuse these medications.

However, the results of this study suggest that while combining these two treatments appeared more effective at relieving symptoms, acupuncture alone could be a potentially effective alternative for pregnant individuals who want to steer clear of prescription or over-the-counter drugs during pregnancy.

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