Acupuncture is an effective treatment for depression during pregnancy, according to a new American study. A hundred and fifty pregnant women with a diagnosis of major depression were randomised to receive 12 sessions of acupuncture consisting of a standardised point prescription specific for depression, or one of two active controls – control acupuncture or massage – over eight weeks. Women who received specific acupuncture experienced a greater rate of decrease in symptom severity compared with the combined controls or control acupuncture alone. They also showed a significantly greater response rate (63.0%) than the combined controls (44.3%) and control acupuncture alone (37.5%). Symptom reduction and response rates did not differ significantly between the controls. The authors conclude that the results achieved with acupuncture are similar to those achieved with standard depression treatments of similar duration. (Acupuncture for depression during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Mar;115(3):511-20).An update of a 2005 Cochrane systematic review concludes that there is currently insufficient evidence to recommend the use of acupuncture for people with depression, but notes that recommendations for practice cannot be made until further high quality research has been undertaken. Twenty-three new studies were added to the original pooled data, giving a total of 30 trials with 2812 participants in the meta-analysis. The authors concluded that there was insufficient evidence of a consistent beneficial effect from acupuncture compared with a wait list control or sham acupuncture control.
Despite this, acupuncture performed well in comparisons against medication – the majority of trials found them to be equally effective in reducing the severity of depression. Two trials found acupuncture may have additional benefit when combined with medication compared with medication alone. A subgroup of participants with depression as a co-morbidity experienced a reduction in depression with manual acupuncture compared with SSRIs (three trials, 94 participants). (Acupuncture for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Jan 20;(1):CD004046).