23, February 2010
By Rebecca Smith
A study found that more pregnant women with depression benefited from acupuncture than those who had a sham treatment with needles or an ordinary massage.
Two thirds of women who had the real acupuncture reported a significant improvement of their symptoms, compared to less than half of those who had the other treatments.
The study of 150 women with depression was conducted by a team at Stanford University School of Medicine, in California and is published in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
The approach may be particularly beneficial as depression in pregnancy can cause serious complications if left untreated and yet women are reluctant to take drugs while carrying their child, the researchers said.
Lead author Dr Rachel Manber, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences, said: “This standardised acupuncture protocol could be a viable treatment option for depression during pregnancy.
“Because there is this concern about medication among pregnant women and their physicians, it’s important to find an alternative,”
Around 14 per cent of pregnant women may have depression and the condition is less well recognised than post–natal depression.
It is thought the extra hormones during pregnancy may play a role in causing the condition or women may feel overwhelmed by the major changes they are going through, the researchers wrote.
Co–author Dr Deirdre Lyell, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, said: “Treatment of depression during pregnancy is critically important so that a woman can maintain her sense of wellbeing and take good care of herself, her foetus and, someday, her child.
“I don’t think that one–size–fits–all treatments are appropriate for everyone, but acupuncture should be considered as an option.
“I hope that people will respect the rigorous methodology used in this blinded, randomised, controlled trial and accept the result: Traditional acupuncture was associated with a significant improvement in depression.”