Background: Threatened miscarriage is a common complication of early pregnancy increasing the risk of miscarriage or premature labour. Currently there is limited evidence to recommend any biomedical pharmacological or self-care management, resulting in a 'watchful waiting' approach. The objective of this study was to examine the feasibility of offering acupuncture as a therapeutic treatment for women presenting with threatened miscarriage.
Methods: A mixed methods study involving a randomised controlled trial and semi structured interviews. A pragmatic acupuncture protocol including medical self-care advice was compared to an active control receiving touch intervention and medical self-care advice. Descriptive statistics were used to examine the demographic and baseline characteristics. Endpoints were analysed between groups using a mean t-test and chi-square tests with P < 0.05 considered statistically significant. Dichotomous data was expressed as Risk Ratio with 95 % confidence intervals. Eleven participants were purposively interviewed about their experiences on exiting the trial with interviews analysed using thematic analysis.
Results: Forty women were successfully randomised. For women receiving acupuncture there was a statically significant reduction with threatened miscarriage symptoms including bleeding, cramping and back pain compared with the control (p = 0.04). Thematic analysis revealed women were dissatisfied with the medical support and advice received. An overarching theme emerged from the data of 'finding something you can do.' This encompassed the themes: 'they said there was nothing they could do,' 'feeling the benefits' and 'managing while marking time.'
Conclusion: Acupuncture was a feasible intervention and reduced threatened miscarriage symptoms when compared to a touch intervention. Further research is required to further explore acupuncture use for this common complication and whether it can reduce the incidence of miscarriage.
Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR), ACTRN12610000850077 . Date of registration 12/10/2010. Retrospectively registered, with first participant enrolled 11/10/2012.
Keywords: Acupuncture; Feasibility study; Mixed methods; Randomised controlled trial; Supportive care; Threatened miscarriage.