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Category Archives: Pregnancy
An integrative medicine programme which includes acupressure can significantly reduce epidural use and caesarean section rates, when added to standard antenatal care. Doctors in Australia randomised 176 first-time mothers attending two public hospitals in Sydney, to either standard care, or standard care plus a two-day antenatal education programme in six evidence-based complementary medical techniques (acupressure, relaxation, breathing, yoga, massage and partner support).
Whereas epidural use in the standard care group was 69%, that in the intervention group was significantly lower at 24%. The intervention group was also observed to have lower rates of caesarean section, medical or surgical assistance in labour, length of second stage, perineal trauma, and need for resuscitation of the newborn.
A UK feasibility study suggests that acupuncture adds benefit to standard care for back pain in pregnancy. The randomised trial allocated 125 women with pregnancy-related back pain, to one of three treatment groups: standard care alone (advice plus physiotherapy); standard care plus true acupuncture; standard care plus sham acupuncture. Participants received between six and eight treatment sessions over a six week period. The researchers found pregnant women were keen to take part, and they and their midwives had few concerns about acupuncture.
Patient-reported outcome measures of pain, function and quality of life, favoured the addition of true acupuncture to standard care. An economic analysis showed that although the addition of acupuncture lead to a higher total cost of care, it also achieved higher quality-adjusted life-years gains. There was no evidence of serious adverse events for mothers, birth or neonatal outcomes. The researchers conclude that a future, large randomised controlled trial is desirable and feasible, and would be welcomed by pregnant women and clinicians.
(Evaluating Acupuncture and Standard Care for Pregnant Women with Back Pain: a feasibility study and pilot randomised trial. Health Technology Assessment, April 2016.)
A pilot study undertaken at Guangzhou Medical University in China, suggests acupuncture may be helpful as an adjunctive treatment to bring down blood pressure in women with pre-eclampsia. Pregnant women in the study were given the choice of ten acupuncture sessions over a period of a fortnight plus usual care, or just usual care alone. Each group comprised eleven women. Patients in the acupuncture group were found to have significantly lower blood pressure at delivery and 24 hours postpartum, compared with patients in the control group.
(Effects of acupuncture on preeclampsia in Chinese women: a pilot prospective cohort study. Acupuncture in Medicine, 29 October 2015.)
Researchers in Iran are the latest to demonstrate how acupuncture can be of assistance in labour, by showing its use can lead to a significant shortening of the process. They randomised 63 women who were having their first child, to receive either acupuncture (32 women) at two well-known points for this purpose, or sham acupuncture (31 women) at the same points. The study was conducted at two main childbirth centres in Shiraz.
The duration of labour was found to be significantly lower in the group receiving real acupuncture (162 minutes) compared with the control group (280 minutes). Cortisol and labour pain did not vary significantly between the two groups. The authors point out that shortening the active phase of labour can decrease foetal complications such as low Apgar score, nerve injury, infections, and also maternal complications including puerperal infection and postpartum haemorrhage.
(Effects of LI-4 and SP-6 Acupuncture on Labor Pain, Cortisol Level and Duration of Labor. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, October 2015.)
A study undertaken in Spain has shown that acupuncture needling of the point Qihai, which lies just beneath the navel, can shorten the third and final stage of labour – the expulsion of the placenta. A total of 76 women who had been through a normal spontaneous hospital birth, were randomly assigned to receive either acupuncture at Qihai, or sham treatment at a non-acupuncture point nearby.
Statistically significant differences were observed between the two groups. The acupuncture group had a mean time to placental expulsion, of 5.2 minutes. The control group had a corresponding time of 15.2 minutes. This has important implications for maternal health, since a prolonged third stage is considered a risk factor for postpartum haemorrhage. The authors say this treatment is simple, safe and inexpensive.
(Influence of acupuncture on the third stage of labor: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, online 17 March 2015.)