Does acupuncture have a role in the treatment of threatened miscarriage? Findings from a feasibility randomised trial and semi-structured participant interviews

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2016 Oct 7;16(1):298. doi: 10.1186/s12884-016-1092-8.


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.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / prevention & control*
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / psychology
  • Abortion, Threatened / psychology
  • Abortion, Threatened / therapy*
  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Acupuncture Therapy / psychology
  • Adult
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Research Design
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12610000850077