Acupuncture Benefit Seen in Pregnancy
The Wall Street Journal, FEBRUARY 23, 2010
By SHIRLEY S. WANG
Acupuncture designed to treat depression appears to improve symptoms in pregnant women, suggesting it as an alternative to antidepressant medication during pregnancy, a study found.
The study, published Monday in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, is the largest to date examining the effectiveness of acupuncture to treat depression in pregnant women. It was funded by a grant from the government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. “Acupuncture that we have tested works for pregnant, depressed women,” said Rachel Manber, a study author and professor at Stanford University. However, “no single study is enough to make policy recommendations,” she said.
Depression in pregnancy is a risk factor for postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is associated in some studies with poorer cognitive and emotional development in children. Some have linked depression in pregnancy and low birth weight.
Acupuncture treatment for IVF and Pregnancy
As many as 14% of pregnant women are thought to develop a significant depression at some point during their pregnancy, according to the study authors, comparable to numbers who suffer from postpartum depression. Antidepressants are generally considered safe for use in pregnancy, but research has been limited and concerns continue to grow, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. One study showed that the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension, a potentially serious lung condition, is significantly greater in newborns whose mother took antidepressants later in pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that patients and physicians “carefully consider and discuss together” the benefits and risks taking antidepressants during pregnancy.”Antidepressants are not an attractive option for many women,” said Dr. Manber. “Many women are concerned about using antidepressant medication during pregnancy.”
Acupuncture, based on ancient Chinese medicine, attempts to treat conditions by stimulating points on the body, most often with needles stuck in the skin and moved by hand or electrical stimulation, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
In the study, 150 clinically depressed pregnant women who weren’t previously taking antidepressants were randomly assigned to get either acupuncture for depression, acupuncture not specifically designed for depression, or massage for eight weeks. Those who got acupuncture targeting depression had a significantly greater decrease in depressive symptoms, compared with the other women. Some 63% of women in the acupuncture-for-depression group responded to treatment, compared with 44% in the other groups.
There wasn’t a difference between the groups in full recovery from the depression. Though this study didn’t compare acupuncture for depression with another active treatment, the response rates are comparable to those rates from other depression treatments in studies of non-pregnant individuals, Dr. Manber said. And future work needs to examine how acupuncture for depression compares with standard treatment like antidepressants or psychotherapy, as well as who responds to treatment and what the optimal dose of the acupuncture treatment should be.