Women's experiences of having depression during pregnancy and receiving acupuncture treatment-A qualitative study

Women Birth. 2018 Dec;31(6):469-478. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2017.10.009. Epub 2017 Nov 15.


Background: Research indicates some women experiencing depression during pregnancy are dissatisfied with conventional depression treatments due to incomplete effectiveness, dislike of side effects, unsatisfactory experiences with providers and concerns regarding in-utero and breastfeeding safety. Consequently, many explore alternative options including acupuncture. To further understand women's views, preferences and motivations in this regard, as well as their experiences of receiving acupuncture as part of a three-armed pragmatic randomised controlled trial evaluating acupuncture for antenatal depression in Sydney, Australia, in-depth interviews were conducted with a group of acupuncture recipients.

Methods: Eight participants who had completed the eight-treatment intervention were interviewed. Data was analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: The overarching theme to emerge was that women 'felt trapped between a rock and a hard place', in not wanting to feel the way they did, but also not knowing what else to do, as conventional treatments had been inadequate or unsatisfactory, or were now unacceptable during pregnancy. With a mixture of curiosity and open-mindedness, or scepticism and desperation, the women in this study decided to try acupuncture, to 'give it a go', in the hope of receiving benefits. After treatment, these women reported being surprised by 'gaining relief' from symptoms, that they also felt were cumulative and ongoing.

Conclusions: The women in this study described gaining benefits from acupuncture that they felt enabled them to better manage their lives and the changes that pregnancy brings. These findings provide new understanding regarding the possible role acupuncture could provide as a supportive treatment for antenatal depression.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Antenatal; Depression; In-depth interviews.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Motivation
  • Patient Preference
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Pregnancy Complications / therapy*
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult