Acupunct Med 32:257-266 doi:10.1136/acupmed-2013-010480
  • Original paper

The safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: a systematic review

Open Access
  1. Hyangsook Lee4
  1. 1Department of Clinical Korean Medicine, Graduate School, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea
  2. 2Department of Anatomy, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea
  3. 3Department of General Practice and Primary Care, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Plymouth, UK
  4. 4Acupuncture and Meridian Science Research Centre, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul, Korea
  1. Correspondence to Dr Hyangsook Lee, Acupuncture and Meridian Science Research Centre, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, 26 Kyung Hee Dae-ro, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 130-701, Korea; erc633{at}
  • Received 15 October 2013
  • Revised 1 December 2013
  • Accepted 23 January 2014
  • Published Online First 19 February 2014


Objective Although there is a growing interest in the use of acupuncture during pregnancy, the safety of acupuncture is yet to be rigorously investigated. The objective of this review is to identify adverse events (AEs) associated with acupuncture treatment during pregnancy.

Methods We searched Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED) and five Korean databases up to February 2013. Reference lists of relevant articles were screened for additional reports. Studies were included regardless of their design if they reported original data and involved acupuncture needling and/or moxibustion treatment for any conditions in pregnant women. Studies of acupuncture for delivery, abortion, assisted reproduction or postpartum conditions were excluded. AE data were extracted and assessed in terms of severity and causality, and incidence was determined.

Results Of 105 included studies, detailed AEs were reported only in 25 studies represented by 27 articles (25.7%). AEs evaluated as certain, probable or possible in the causality assessment were all mild/moderate in severity, with needling pain being the most frequent. Severe AEs or deaths were few and all considered unlikely to have been caused by acupuncture. Total AE incidence was 1.9%, and the incidence of AEs evaluated as certainly, probably or possibly causally related to acupuncture was 1.3%.

Conclusions Acupuncture during pregnancy appears to be associated with few AEs when correctly applied.

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