Acupuncture Found Effective Against Depression During Pregnancy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

In a study presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, researchers have unveiled findings showing acupuncture may be an effective treatment for depression during pregnancy.
"Depression during pregnancy is an issue of concern because it has negative effects on both the mother and the baby, as well as the rest of the family," said Dr. Rosa Schnyer, one of the study's authors.

About 10 percent of pregnant women meet the criteria for major depression, and almost 20 percent have increased symptoms of depression during pregnancy. The rates of depression in pregnant women are comparable to rates seen among similarly aged nonpregnant women and among women during the postpartum period, but there are far fewer treatment studies of depression during pregnancy than during the postpartum period.

Dealing with depression is difficult for pregnant women because antidepressants could harm the developing fetus, and women are reluctant to take medications during pregnancy.

In the study, an evaluator-blinded, randomized trial, 150 participants who met the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) criteria for major depressive disorder were randomly selected to receive either acupuncture specific for depression (52) or one of two active controls: control acupuncture (49) or massage (49). Treatments lasted eight weeks for a total of 12 sessions. Junior acupuncturists were not aware of the treatment assignment, and they placed needles at points prescribed by senior acupuncturists. The massage therapists and patients in that group were not blinded.

The primary outcome was the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, administered by blinded raters at baseline and after four and eight weeks of treatment. Data were analyzed using mixed effects models and by intent-to-treat.

The results showed the women who received specialized acupuncture experienced a significantly greater decrease in depression severity compared to the combined controls. They also had a higher response rate (63 percent) than the combined controls or control acupuncture alone. Symptom reduction and response rates did not differ significantly between controls (control acupuncture at 37.5 percent, massage at 50 percent). Mild and transient side effects were reported by 43 of the 150 participants (four in the massage group, 19 in the control acupuncture group and 20 in the specialized acupuncture group). Significantly fewer participants reported side effects in the massage group than the two acupuncture groups.

"The results of our study show that the acupuncture protocol we tested could be a viable treatment option for depression during pregnancy" said Dr. Schnyer.

Vicki Bendure

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 21, 2010