Morning sickness is one of the most common and worst pregnancy symptoms.
Unlike other side effects, it can be difficult to hide—especially when you’re in public. And to top things off, there’s not many solutions to morning sickness. This leads some moms to seek out alternative remedies. One of those is morning sicknesses bands.
Sickness bands are bracelets designed to keep nausea at bay. People use them during pregnancy, car travel or for vomiting post-surgery. But do they actually work? Is it really possible for an elastic band to cure your sickness?
In this post, we’re discussing the evidence behind morning sickness bands and whether you should try one out yourself.
What are Morning Sickness Bands?
At first sight, morning sickness bands don’t look special or that different from any other band. The knitted elastic fabric simply fits snug around your wrist.
However, companies who make them claim they’re designed differently. Since the wraps are meant to put pressure on a certain wrist point, it’s believed to improve nausea. A plastic “knob” or “button” is sewn to the inside of the band. This is said to stimulate the “P6” AKA the Nei-Kuan acupressure point.
There’s a variety of sickness wristband companies that put their own spin on the product. Some brands also sell essential oils you can use with them for a potential calming benefit. Others, like Relief Band, send mild shocks through your nerves to “activate” the pressure point. However, in this post, we’re strictly talking about standard, no-shock sickness bands.
Sickness bands are typically natural and don’t contain any drugs or chemicals, making them safe to try during pregnancy. For this reason, it can also be used on children or anyone feeling sick—not just pregnant women. Unlike some other nausea remedies, you can use in as much as you’d like. Since there’s no risk involved, you don’t need to worry about remembering to use it or take it off.
When a mom-to-be feels sick, she can simply put on the band and take it off when or if she feels better. The band can be reused as many times as needed (as long as you keep it clean!).
Relief Band for Morning Sickness: Do They Work?
Morning sickness bands are said to work by stimulating a specific pressure point. To understand whether this is true, we have to look at acupressure itself.
What is Acupressure?
Acupressure is an alternative medicine practice used for thousands of years in China. The idea is that we have pressure points throughout our body. Each point corresponds to a specific wellness area. People who use acupressure believe that energy flows through these points, but they can become “blocked.” To “unblock” them and restore health, they apply pressure to these points. Pressure can come from simply pressing on the point using your fingers or palms, or it can come from a device, such as a band.
Practices using pressure points, like acupressure, acupuncture and reflexology haven’t been well-studied. Although there’s some evidence to back up that these points exist, many experts say that large, high-quality studies are needed before making any claims. When people work with acupressure points, they’re mainly working from traditional Chinese medicine rather than a large body of evidence-based data.
With that being said, many people say they’ve experienced benefits from acupressure. While it’s not clear what’s causing these benefits, since there’s no side effects, it doesn’t hurt to try.
Pericardium 6 Pressure Point for Morning Sickness
Sickness bands are said to work by pressing against a pressure point in your wrist called Pericardium 6 or Nei Guan. This point is located on the inner side of your wrist, about 3 fingers down in the middle. Without even buying a band, you can stimulate this area yourself by applying downward pressure and massaging the area for 5 seconds.
Many people believe that this acupressure point can also relieve headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome.
There has been some research specifically on this pressure point and how it affects nausea. In a 2001 study of 60 pregnant women, researchers wanted to see if there was a difference between pressing the actual point and pressing a fake, “placebo” point. They found, regardless of the real or fake point, women felt relief after starting treatment. However, those who had their real pressure point pressed experienced significantly less nausea after 14 days.
Other research shows that the point could help prevent nausea and vomiting in patients post-surgery. There’s also evidence that P6 and another pressure point called Zu San Li (ST36) work together to improve gastrointestinal motility disorders.
Combined, there is evidence that the pressure point P6 exists and affects nausea and vomiting. However, more research is needed to prove any claims.
Studies on Morning Sickness Bands for Pregnancy
It’s worth noting that for a treatment to be proven effective, it needs to go through many high-quality clinical trials. Although this is what’s required for pharmaceutical medication, it’s not required for low-risk devices to make claims. So, while there is evidence that acupressure bands work, it hasn’t met the “burden of proof” to be considered a clinical treatment. With that being said, let’s look at some of the current evidence.
A 2001 study divided 138 pregnant women into two groups: Those wearing Sea-Bands and those wearing bands without acupressure buttons. Both groups wore bands on both wrists for 4 days and removed them for 3 days after. Researchers found that those wearing the real bracelet had fewer problems and severity with nausea and vomiting. They concluded that the bands were a non-invasive, safe and effective treatment.
Another study on pregnant women found that if patients put the bands on as soon as the nausea started, they were able to get rid of their symptoms completely. However, 60% reported an ease in pain—rather than a complete elimination—and 9% said they had little relief. The women also noted that wearing them on both writs and placing them correctly over the acupressure point was critical for relief. This suggests that the bands may work sometimes when they’re used correctly. However, there was no control group to compare the results against—meaning it’s unclear if a placebo would have the same effect.
A 2005 study looked at the bands and car motion sickness. Researchers found it may be effective for older people. Other research from 2015 studied them on postoperative patients experiencing the same symptoms. Researchers concluded there was no significant effect from P6 acupressure.
The most popular sickness band, Sea-Band, provides a summary of studies on their website. It’s worth noting that this report also includes research on the P6 acupressure point in general, not just on the wristband specifically. To put it simply, some of the data justifies the acupressure point’s importance rather than the use of their wristband itself.
Could Morning Sickness Bands Work Because of the Placebo Effect?
Some people theorize that it’s not acupressure points that make the wristbands work: It’s the placebo effect. A placebo effect is when your brain tricks you into thinking something works, so it does.
To figure out whether the benefits are from the bracelet or your brain, researchers often use control groups. As we noted, in some studies, “fake” and “real” sickness bands have the same benefits. Some studies don’t use control groups at all, so we can’t tell. So far, more research needs to be done to figure out what’s causing their advantages.
Summary of Motion Sickness Bands During Pregnancy
Morning sickness bands appear to work for some people and not others. There’s some evidence to back up their benefits, but more research is needed to determine if or how well they work.
Since morning sickness bands don’t have any chemicals, they don’t have any side effects, so it shouldn’t hurt to try if you’re curious. The only risk would be if you use the band instead of seeing a doctor in severe cases.
From the successful studies we’ve outlined, there’s a few things you can do to potentially get the most out of your band:
- Purchase two and wear them on both wrists.
- Make sure the button is positioned over the acupressure point
- Put them on as soon as you start feeling sick
If you don’t want to spend money on a morning sickness band because you’re afraid it may not work, here’s an idea: Try pressing the pressure point yourself next time you feel sick. If you do this a of couple times and notice that it helps, it may be worth purchasing a wristband that will automatically do it for you.
P.S. Have you tried a fetal heartbeat monitor yet? These are handheld devices that you can use at home to hear and monitor your baby’s heartbeat—while she’s still inside the womb! It’s a reassuring experience to have between doctor’s appointments and many say it brings the family closer.
Hear Your Baby’s Heartbeat Before She’s Born. Get the Fetal Doppler Today.