Effect of acustimulation on nausea and vomiting and on hyperemesis in pregnancy: a systematic review of Western and Chinese literature.

Van den Heuvel E et al, 2016 Jan 13;16:13

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine

This review of twenty-nine randomised controlled trials (including 3519 patients) found that there was a significant reduction in nausea and vomiting in pregnancy with the application of various acupuncture techniques, when trials reporting dichotomous data (ie symptoms improved or not) were analysed. 73 % fewer patients had symptoms after treatment compared to those who did not have treatment. However when trials reporting continuous data were analysed this difference between treatment and control groups was not found.

The included studies examined acupressure, acupuncture, auricular acupressure and moxibustion. Treatment duration varied from four to ten days in 25 studies. Four studies continued treatment for two to four weeks. Treatment frequency varied from once a day to once every week.

The authors advised that these findings need to be evaluated in future clinical trials with rigorous design and large sample sizes.



Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) and hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) have a significant impact on quality of life. Medication to relieve symptoms of NVP and HG are available but pregnant women and their caregivers have been concerned about the teratogenic effect, side effects and poor efficacy. The aim of this review was to investigate if there is any clinical evidence for the efficacy of acustimulation in the treatment of NVP or HG.


A systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), including both English and Chinese databases was conducted to assess the efficacy of various techniques of acustimulation for NVP and HG. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed using the Cochrane’s risks of bias tool. Revised STRICTA (2010) criteria were used to appraise acustimulation procedures. Pooled relative risks (RRp) and standard mean deviations (SMD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated from the data provided by the investigators of the original trials.


Twenty-nine trials including 3519 patients met the inclusion criteria. Twenty trials could be included in statistical pooling. The overall effect of different acustimulation techniques shows a significant reduction for the combined outcome for NVP or HG in pregnancy as a dichotomous variable (RRp 1.73, 95% CI 1.43 to 2.08). Studies with continuous outcome measures for nausea, vomiting and the combined outcome did not show any evidence for relieving symptoms of NVP and HG (SMD -0.12, 95% CI -0.35 to 0.12).


Although there is some evidence for an effect of acustimulation on nausea and vomiting or hyperemesis in pregnancy, results are not conclusive. Future clinical trials with a rigorous design and large sample sizes should be conducted to evaluate the efficacy and safety of these interventions for NVP and HG.

Full article, acupuncture for pregnancy nausea review 2016