Objective: To evaluate the influence of acupuncture on the blood flow in the umbilical artery (UA), fetal aorta and uterine artery and on the fetal heart rate using two different acupuncture points (SP-6 (Sanyinjiao) and LI-4 (Hegu)).
Methods: In group A (n = 50), measurements (Doppler ultrasound and fetal heart rate) were performed at term after an uneventful pregnancy (#1) followed by acupuncture treatment using the acupuncture-point SP-6 bilaterally. The treatment time lasted 15 min after which the next measurement (#2) was carried out. The needles were then inserted into the LI-4 acupuncture point for a further 15 min. A third measurement at the end of acupuncture treatment (#3) completed the session. In group B (n = 25), measurements were made before (#1) and after (#4) acupuncture at LI-4 acupuncture points only.
Results: In group A, the mean systolic/diastolic (S/D) ratios of UA #1, UA #2 and UA #3 were 2.45, 2.38 and 2.22, respectively (P = 0.0012). The difference in mean S/D ratios between UA #1 and UA #3 as well as that between UA #2 and UA#3 were statistically significant (P = 0.0002 and P = 0.008, respectively). There was no difference between the mean S/D ratios of the uterine artery and between the mean resistance indices of the fetal aorta. In group B, the only significant difference between measurements following acupuncture treatment was in fetal heart rate (139 vs. 143 bpm, P = 0.02).
Conclusion: Our study indicates a positive influence of acupuncture treatment on umbilical artery waveforms when using a combination of SP-6 (Sanyinjiao) and LI-4 (Hegu) acupuncture points. Acupuncture performed at these sites either individually or in combination does not seem to affect blood flow in the fetal aorta or uterine artery.