Acupuncture and pregnancy

Continued care throughout pregnancy has been shown to help prevent miscarriage, manage pain and nausea, treat hypertension, hasten and facilitate labour and delivery, as well as decrease chances of post-partum depression.

Background Midwives in Wellington, New Zealand, observed that women receiving prebirth acupuncture consistently experienced efficient labors, reporting a reduction in the length of labor and medical intervention, specifically the use of epidurals, medical inductions, and cesarean deliveries.

Objective To undertake a naturalistic observational study of women receiving acupuncture as part of their antenatal care.


Design, Setting, and Patients Practices of 14 midwives recorded their prebirth acupuncture treatments over a 4-month period in 2004 in 169 New Zealand women who received prebirth acupuncture. 


Main Outcome Measures Gestation at onset of labor, incidence of medical induction, length of labor, use of analgesia, and type of delivery. 


Results When compared with the local population rates, there was an overall 35% reduction in the number of inductions (for primigravida women, this was a 43% reduction); 31% reduction in the epidural rate; 32% reduction in emergency cesarean delivery; and a 9% increase in normal vaginal birth.

Conclusions Prebirth acupuncture appeared to provide some promising therapeutic benefits in assisting women to have a normal vaginal birth. A further randomized controlled study is warranted.

Click here for more information on pregnancy care in Vancouver, and the personal website of the IVF Acupuncture Group founder Dr. Spence Pentland

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the efficacy of acupuncture for depression during pregnancy in a randomized controlled trial.

METHODS: A total of 150 pregnant women who met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition) criteria for major depressive disorder were randomized to receive either acupuncture specific for depression or one of two active controls: control acupuncture or massage. Treatments lasted 8 weeks (12 sessions). Junior acupuncturists, who were not told about treatment assignment, needled participants at points prescribed by senior acupuncturists. All treatments were standardized. The primary outcome was the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, administered by masked raters at baseline and after 4 and 8 weeks of treatment. Continuous data were analyzed using mixed effects models and by intent to treat.

RESULTS: Fifty-two women were randomized to acupuncture specific for depression, 49 to control acupuncture, and 49 to massage. Women who received acupuncture specific for depression experienced a greater rate of decrease in symptom severity (P<.05) compared with the combined controls (Cohen's d=0.39, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.01–0.77) or control acupuncture alone (P<.05; Cohen's d=0.46, 95% CI 0.01–0.92). They also had significantly greater response rate (63.0%) than the combined controls (44.3%; P<.05; number needed to treat, 5.3; 95% CI 2.8–75.0) and control acupuncture alone (37.5%; P<.05: number needed to treat, 3.9; 95% CI 2.2–19.8). Symptom reduction and response rates did not differ significantly between controls (control acupuncture, 37.5%; massage, 50.0%).

CONCLUSION: The short acupuncture protocol demonstrated symptom reduction and a response rate comparable to those observed in standard depression treatments of similar length and could be a viable treatment option for depression during pregnancy.

Click here for more information on pregnancy care in Vancouver, and the personal website of the IVF Acupuncture Group founder Dr. Spence Pentland

OBJECTIVES: To compare the efficacy of standard treatment, standard treatment plus acupuncture, and standard treatment plus stabilising exercises for pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy.

DESIGN: Randomised single blind controlled trial. Settings East Hospital, Gothenburg, and 27 maternity care centres in Sweden.

PARTICIPANTS: 386 pregnant women with pelvic girdle pain.

INTERVENTIONS: Treatment for six weeks with standard treatment (n = 130), standard treatment plus acupuncture (n = 125), or standard treatment plus stabilising exercises (n = 131).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary outcome measure was pain (visual analogue scale); secondary outcome measure was assessment of severity of pelvic girdle pain by an independent examiner before and after treatment.

RESULTS: After treatment the stabilising exercise group had less pain than the standard group in the morning (median difference = 9, 95% confidence interval 1.7 to 12.8; P = 0.0312) and in the evening (13, 2.7 to 17.5; P = 0.0245). The acupuncture group, in turn, had less pain in the evening than the stabilising exercise group (-14, -18.1 to -3.3; P = 0.0130). Furthermore, the acupuncture group had less pain than the standard treatment group in the morning (12, 5.9 to 17.3; P < 0.001) and in the evening (27, 13.3 to 29.5; P < 0.001). Attenuation of pelvic girdle pain as assessed by the independent examiner was greatest in the acupuncture group.

CONCLUSION: Acupuncture and stabilising exercises constitute efficient complements to standard treatment for the management of pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy. Acupuncture was superior to stabilising exercises in this study.

Click here for more information on pregnancy care in Vancouver, and the personal website of the IVF Acupuncture Group founder Dr. Spence Pentland

The objective of our study was to review the effectiveness of needle acupuncture in treating the common and disabling problem of pelvic and back pain in pregnancy. Two small trials on mixed pelvic/back pain and 1 large high-quality trial on pelvic pain met the inclusion criteria. Acupuncture, as an adjunct to standard treatment, was superior to standard treatment alone and physiotherapy in relieving mixed pelvic/back pain. Women with well-defined pelvic pain had greater relief of pain with a combination of acupuncture and standard treatment, compared to standard treatment alone or stabilizing exercises and standard treatment. We used a narrative synthesis due to significant clinical heterogeneity between trials. Few and minor adverse events were reported.

We conclude that limited evidence supports acupuncture use in treating pregnancy-related pelvic and back pain. Additional high-quality trials are needed to test the existing promising evidence for this relatively safe and popular complementary therapy.

Click here for more information on pregnancy care in Vancouver, and the personal website of the IVF Acupuncture Group founder Dr. Spence Pentland