Background The aim of this study was to describe the effects of acupuncture under real life conditions, in the treatment of emotional complaints during pregnancy.
Methods A group of 51 conventionally treated pregnant women (with counselling by their physicians and nurses) was allocated by chance into two groups to be either treated or not by acupuncture. Both groups (28 in the study group and 23 in the control group) presented emotional complaints such as anxiety, depression and irritability. They reported the severity of symptoms using a Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) from 0 to 10; and they rated how much the symptoms disturbed five aspects of their lives: mood, sleep, relationships, social activities, sexual life and joy of living. Traditional acupuncture was used. In order to facilitate protocols we used pre-programmed points. Up to four points were permitted as optional points.
Results Three women from the acupuncture group and four from the control group dropped out of the study. Over the study period, the NRS scores of intensity of emotional distress decreased by at least half in 15/25 (60%) of patients in the study group and in 5/19 (26%) of those in the control group (P=0.013). The impact of the distress on three out of the five aspects of life was significantly less in the acupuncture group when compared with the control group (P<0.05).
Conclusion Emotional complaints are very common in pregnancy and medication is always a risk. In this study, acupuncture seems to be an efficacious means of reducing symptoms and improving the quality of life of women with emotional complaints during pregnancy. Large randomised studies are recommended to confirm these results.
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