Safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: a retrospective cohort study in Korea

BJOG. 2020 Jan;127(1):79-86. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.15925. Epub 2019 Sep 19.


Objective: The present study aimed to analyse the Korean National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) cohort data to examine the safety of acupuncture therapy during pregnancy.

Design: Retrospective cohort.

Setting: Korea.

Population or sample: Women with confirmed pregnancy between 2003 and 2012 from the 2002-13 NHIS sample cohort (n = 20 799).

Methods: Women with confirmed pregnancy were identified and divided into acupuncture or control group for comparison of their outcomes. Differences in other factors such as age, and rate of high-risk pregnancy and multiple pregnancy were examined. In the acupuncture group, the most frequent acupuncture diagnosis codes and the timing of treatment were also investigated.

Main outcome measures: Incidence of full-term delivery, preterm delivery and stillbirth by pregnancy duration and among the high-risk and multiple pregnancy groups.

Results: Of 20 799 pregnant women analysed, 1030 (4.95%) and 19 749 were in the acupuncture and control groups, respectively. Both overall (odds ratio [OR] 1.23; 95% CI 0.98-1.54), and in the stratified analysis of high-risk pregnancies (OR 1.09; 95% CI 0.73-1.64), there was no significant difference between acupuncture and control groups in preterm deliveries. No stillbirths occurred in the acupuncture group and 0.035% of pregnancies resulted in stillbirths in the control group.

Conclusion: No significant difference in delivery outcomes (preterm delivery and stillbirth) was observed between confirmed pregnancies in the acupuncture and control groups. Therefore, in pregnancy, acupuncture therapy may be a safe therapeutic modality for relieving discomfort without an adverse delivery outcome.

Tweetable abstract: In pregnancy, acupuncture therapy may be a safe therapeutic modality for relieving discomfort without an adverse outcome.

Keywords: Acupuncture; pregnancy; pregnancy outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / epidemiology
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / etiology
  • Acupuncture Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Safety
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology*
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology
  • Premature Birth / etiology
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stillbirth / epidemiology
  • Young Adult