Acupuncture for Depression in Pregnancy

A randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for depression during pregnancy suggested that symptoms were reduced with a response rate similar to standard depression treatments.  Acupuncture may be a viable treatment option for depression during pregnancy.

150 pregnant women who met criteria for major depression were given either acupuncture specific for depression or one of two active controls: control acupuncture or massage. They received 12 sessions during 8 weeks. The acupuncturists who administered treatment were blinded to treatment assignment. The Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression was used to rate severity. 63% of the women who received depression-specific acupuncture reported a significant reduction in symptoms, compared to 44% of women in the other two groups combined.

Many pregnant women with depression stop taking medications when they become pregnant, due to concerns this may harm their unborn babies.  Women with depression are at increased risk for preterm births, and are at increased risk for post partum depression, so treatment of depression during pregnancy is important. Post partum depression interferes with a woman’s ability to care for her infant, and can have lasting effects; previous studies suggest that children of mothers with postpartum depression perform more poorly in school, become frustrated more easily, and have poorer problem solving.

Acupuncture may be a good option in treating depression in pregnant women; this treatment appears to be more effective than other tested non-pharmacologic treatments. Depression during pregnancy is common; up to 14% of women may have depression when pregnant.

Acupuncture for depression during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial.

Manber R, Schnyer RN, Lyell D, Chambers AS, Caughey AB, Druzin M, Carlyle E, Celio C, Gress JL, Huang MI, Kalista T, Martin-Okada R, Allen JJ.

Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Mar;115(3):511-20.PMID: 20177281