Background: Complementary medicine has become popular throughout many Western countries and is widely used by women across all stages of their life cycle. Acupuncture is used by women during their pregnancy, and research suggests that acupuncture may be used as an adjunct to their existing conventional care. The aim of this paper was to summarize the evidence examining the effectiveness of acupuncture during pregnancy and birthing, and to discuss its role as an adjunct treatment.
Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search using several electronic databases. We included all placebo-controlled randomized trials of parallel design, and systematic reviews that evaluated the role of acupuncture during pregnancy and birthing. A critical appraisal of clinical trials and systematic reviews was undertaken.
Results: The summarized findings indicated a small but growing body of acupuncture research, with some evidence suggesting a benefit from acupuncture to treat nausea in pregnancy. Findings from the review also highlighted promising evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture to manage back and pelvic pain, acupuncture-type interventions to induce change in breech presentation, and pain relief in labor. The methodological quality of recent trials has improved, and the quality of systematic reviews was high.
Conclusions: Interest is growing in the use of acupuncture to treat some complaints during pregnancy and childbirth, and evidence is beginning to consolidate that acupuncture may assist with the management of some complaints during pregnancy. However, definitive conclusions about its effectiveness cannot be reached and further research is justified.