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Randomized Controlled Trial
. 2016 Oct 7;16(1):298.
doi: 10.1186/s12884-016-1092-8.

Does Acupuncture Have a Role in the Treatment of Threatened Miscarriage? Findings From a Feasibility Randomised Trial and Semi-Structured Participant Interviews

Free PMC article
Randomized Controlled Trial

Does Acupuncture Have a Role in the Treatment of Threatened Miscarriage? Findings From a Feasibility Randomised Trial and Semi-Structured Participant Interviews

Debra Betts et al. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. .
Free PMC article

Erratum in


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.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Flow diagram of participants in study

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    1. Aleman, A, Althabe, F, Belizan Jose, M & Bergel, E 2005, Bed rest during pregnancy for preventing miscarriage. Cochrane Database of Syst Rev. issue. 2, doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003576. - PubMed
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    1. Adam, K, Entwisle, M, O’Toole, K, Bhima, G, Palep-Singh, M & Edi-Osagie, E 2011, Developing a robust model for predicting the outcome of pregnancies complicated by threatened miscarriage in the first trimester. 27th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. Stockholm Sweden.
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    1. Betts, D, Smith, CA & Dahlen, HG 2012, Acupuncture as a therapeutic treatment option for threatened miscarriage. BMC Complement Altern Med.12, doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-12-20. - PMC - PubMed

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