According to an analysis of existing studies, acupuncture can significantly relieve the pelvic or/and lower back pain often experienced by pregnant women.
There were also no notable major side effects for infants whose moms had chosen the treatment, even though just a few of the studies included in the analysis looked at outcomes such as premature birth.
Acupuncture is proving itself to be a potential treatment for several different kinds of pain since it doesn’t involve the requirement for medications and is regarded as safe.
Exactly how it eases the pain is unclear but is believed to involve the release of endorphins, the body’s innate ‘happy’ chemicals, as well as an increase in localized blood flow to muscle and skin.
But whether it can alleviate the debilitating pelvic and low back pain experienced by as many as 90% of pregnant women continues to be debated.
Databases were searched for relevant clinical studies comparing the pain relief experienced by pregnant women who had acupuncture, alone or in combination with other treatments, with dummy/no/other treatments, as well as the possible effect on their newborns.
Ten randomized controlled studies that involved 1040 women were included in the final analysis. The pregnant women were all healthy and on average 17 to 30 weeks pregnant, and experienced pelvic or/and lower back pain.
Acupuncture was provided either by midwives, physiotherapists, or trained acupuncturists. Three studies referred to ear lobe acupuncture and seven studies referred to body acupuncture.
The acupuncture points for treatment were reported, as well as needle retention time and dose. In 7 studies, points usually considered to be contraindicated in pregnancy known as ’forbidden points’ were used.
A combined analysis of the results of 9 of the studies indicated that pain in pregnant women was significantly relieved with acupuncture. Four of these studies found that acupuncture significantly improved physical function. The results of 5 studies reported a significant improvement in quality of life after acupuncture treatment.
Four studies found a significant difference in overall effects when comparing acupuncture to no or other treatments.
The analysis also indicated that acupuncture is safe, with 4 studies reporting that there wasn’t any significant difference in the Apgar health scores of newborns with acupuncture in comparison to other or no treatment.
Seven studies reported expected minor side effects for the pregnant women, which included bleeding and soreness at the needle site, pain, and drowsiness. Even so, individuals rated acupuncture positively and most were prepared to repeat it, if necessary.
The number of studies included in the analysis was however relatively small with variable quality. The participant characteristics, outcomes, methodology, and design also differed substantially. And the drop-out rate exceeded 20% in the comparison group in 2 of the studies.
Even so, the researchers concluded that acupuncture warrants closer consideration for its potential to alleviate pain at a time when it’s better to avoid medications due to their potential side effects for mother and baby.
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