Background: Nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy are troublesome symptoms for some women. We undertook a single blind randomized controlled trial to determine whether acupuncture reduced nausea, dry retching, and vomiting, and improved the health status of women in pregnancy.
Methods: The trial was undertaken at a maternity teaching hospital in Adelaide, Australia, where 593 women less than 14 weeks' pregnant with symptoms of nausea or vomiting were randomized into 4 groups: traditional acupuncture, pericardium 6 (p6) acupuncture, sham acupuncture, or no acupuncture (control). Treatment was administered weekly for 4 weeks. The primary outcomes were nausea, dry retching, vomiting, and health status. Comparisons were made between groups over 4 consecutive weeks.
Results: Women receiving traditional acupuncture reported less nausea (p < 0.01) throughout the trial and less dry retching (p < 0.01) from the second week compared with women in the no acupuncture control group. Women who received p6 acupuncture (p < 0.05) reported less nausea from the second week of the trial, and less dry retching (p < 0.001) from the third week compared with women in the no acupuncture control group. Women in the sham acupuncture group (p < 0.01) reported less nausea and dry retching (p < 0.001) from the third week compared with women in the no acupuncture group. No differences in vomiting were found among the groups at any time.
Conclusion: Acupuncture is an effective treatment for women who experience nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy. A time-related placebo effect was found for some women.