Researchers in Spain have shown two weeks of ear acupuncture significantly reduces lumbar and pelvic pain in pregnancy. In the trial, 220 women at 24 to 36 weeks gestation were recruited from 18 primary care centres. They were randomly assigned to receive standard care plus either weekly acupuncture for two weeks, non-specific acupuncture (at points not customarily expected to benefit lumbar or pelvic pain), or placebo acupuncture. A fourth group received standard care alone.
Compared with baseline, the reduction in pain intensity in the true ear acupuncture group was significantly greater than that in the standard care group. A similar pattern emerged for disability and physical health.
(Effect of ear acupuncture on pregnancy-related pain in the lower back and posterior pelvic girdle: a multicentre randomised clinical trial. Acta Obstetricia Gynecologica Scandinavica, 29 April 2019.)
French researchers have found acupuncture to be a cost-effective treatment for pelvic girdle and lower back pain in pregnancy. Women given acupuncture in addition to standard care reported less pain and disability than those given standard care alone.
A total of 199 women at gestations of between 16 and 34 weeks, were randomly allocated to receive either five sessions of acupuncture plus routine care, or routine care alone, over four weeks. Additional sessions were available at the patients’ request. The study took place across five maternity hospitals in the Paris region. Routine care comprised a pregnancy belt, lifestyle recommendations and exercises. Painkillers, rest and sick leave were prescribed by the referring physician or midwife.
The proportion of days on which women reported a pain score less than 4/10 was 61% in the acupuncture group, compared with 48% in the routine care group. Mean disability scores were also lower in the acupuncture group. As well as being more effective, acupuncture plus routine care was more than 300 euros per patient cheaper for the economy overall: the cost of providing acupuncture was offset by the costs of reduced absence from work.
(Cost-effectiveness of acupuncture versus standard care for pelvic and low back pain in pregnancy: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS One, 22 April 2019.)
Researchers interested in acupuncture for morning sickness, have undertaken a network meta-analysis comparing treatments. Acupuncture, acupressure and methylprednisolone for hyperemesis gravidarum, the severe form of morning sickness, offered better therapeutic benefits than standard care. Acupressure also reduced the need for rescue antiemetics.
(Interventions for treating hyperemesis gravidarum: a network meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 25 September 2018.)
Researchers in the Department of Nursing at the Federal University of Ceará, Brazil have found that a course of acupuncture offers significant analgesic effects for women experiencing lower back pain in pregnancy. A total of 56 women between 14 and 37 weeks pregnant, and mean age 25, were given up to six acupuncture sessions. Pain scores showed a statistically significant reduction in lower back pain as early as the second session, with further gradual improvements following. The women also reported improvements in relaxation, stress, sleep and anxiety. The researchers concluded that acupuncture “has the potential to promote health in a pleasant, simple, convenient, practical, risk-free and cost-effective manner”.
(Acupuncture treatment: multidimensional assessment of low back pain in pregnant women. Revista da Escola Enfermagem da USP, 11 June 2018.)
Researchers from the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department at the University of Modena in Italy, have found that acupuncture given regularly from full term, may be effective in reducing the rates of labour induction performed for women whose pregnancies are running on significantly past their due dates. A total of 375 women at 40 weeks gestation received either acupuncture or routine care. Acupuncture was given on alternate days from 40 weeks plus 2 days, up until 41 weeks plus 4 days. Acupuncture points were chosen from those traditionally indicated to enhance uterine activity, ripen the cervix, relax the muscles and reduce anxiety.
Compared with the control group, women who received acupuncture: experienced a higher rate of spontaneous delivery (75% versus 53%); delivered on average two days earlier; had lower rates of labour induction (20% versus 38%); needed less oxytocin to strengthen their contractions; had lower rates of operative delivery (6% versus 11%). The researchers point out the significance of the reduced demand for oxytocin, in the context of a recent study suggesting adverse effects of oxytocin on birth outcomes.
(Acupuncture in Postdate Pregnancy Management. Journal of Acupuncture & Meridian Studies, October 2018.)