Researchers at Queen’s University and the University of Alberta in Canada, have investigated the effectiveness of acupuncture for assisting in the initiation and duration of labour.
Sixteen pregnant women at full term, were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture either at sites traditionally used to bring on labour, or at nearby sham sites. The results showed that women in the true acupuncture group on average went into labour 62 hours ahead of the sham group, and also experienced labours which were on average two hours and twenty minutes shorter. Patients reported that the experience of undergoing acupuncture provided them with a sense of control over the outcome of their pregnancy and that they enjoyed their interaction with the acupuncturists.
(Effectiveness of Acupuncture for the Initiation of Labour at Term: A Pilot Randomised Controlled Trial. Journal of Gynaecology & Obstetrics of Canada, December 2008.)
For breech presentation of a baby in the later stages of pregnancy, a common treatment from the acupuncturist’s stable of techniques, is to warm a specific acupuncture point on the foot, using a herb called moxa. The method is known as moxibustion, and if a case is suitable, I instruct a woman in how to do this herself or with her partner’s help.
A systematic review from Holland has compared the effects of such techniques, with normal management. Researchers looked at six randomised, controlled trials plus three cohort studies, and found that the proportion of breech presentations remaining after treatment averaged 28%, whereas in the control groups, it averaged 56%.
(Effectiveness of Acupuncture-type Interventions versus Expectant Management to correct Breech Presentation: a Systematic Review. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, April 2008.)
A review of three trials looking at the effectiveness of acupuncture for pelvic and back pain in pregnancy, has shown promising results. The authors examined two small trials on mixed back and pelvic pain, and one large, high-quality trial on pelvic pain. Acupuncture, as an adjunct to standard treatment, was superior to standard treatment alone and to physiotherapy in relieving mixed pelvic/back pain. Adverse events were few and only minor. The authors conclude that the 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.
(Acupuncture for pelvic and back pain in pregnancy: a systematic review. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, March 2008.)
A randomised controlled study of acupuncture for depression during pregnancy, and involving 61 women, concluded that eight weeks of depression-specific acupuncture treatment, was significantly more effective than either non-specific acupuncture or massage, in reducing the symptoms of depression.
(Acupuncture: A Promising Treatment for Depression during Pregnancy. Journal of Affective Disorders, 15 November 2004.)