Researchers at Stanford University in California say acupuncture can be an effective weapon against depression in pregnant women.
Depression can pose serious health risks to mother and baby, according to Rachel Manber, a Stanford University psychiatry professor. "Depression is associated with suffering, can be associated with suicide or wishing to not live." She adds that depression has been linked to babies who are more difficult to console.
Need for safe alternative treatment
Psychological counseling is commonly used to treat depression in pregnancy. But many women avoid taking antidepressants while they're pregnant because of safety concerns. That makes finding an alternative treatment important.
Acupuncture has been used to treat other medical conditions during pregnancy, like pain and nausea. It's also used to treat depression in other patients. Manber and her colleagues wanted to find out if the technique could be used to ease depression during pregnancy as well.
They recruited pregnant women who suffered from major depressive disorders for a study. "We then randomized them to receive eight weeks of treatment with one of three treatments. One of the treatments was the acupuncture that we have tested for depression." The two other groups, who received massage therapy and acupuncture treatments not known to ease depression, were used as controls.
Modern success for an ancient practice
After eight weeks, the women were tested to see if their symptoms of depression remained. "What we found is that women who received the acupuncture for depression had a greater reduction in symptom severity and a greater proportion of women have responded to treatment than the control groups," Manber says.
Researchers found acupuncture to be about as effective as the current treatment approaches, counseling and drugs. "We that found 63 percent of the women who received the acupuncture for depression ended up responding to treatment, which is really at the high end of response rates for treatment for depression in outpatients."
Manber says the results must be independently replicated, and scientists need to better understand the mechanisms of how acupuncture therapy works.
This study is published in the March issue of "Obstetrics and Gynecology."