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Acupuncture Today
May, 2010, Vol. 11, Issue 05

AOM Helps Women Stay Healthy

By Editorial Staff

There's no question that women have some very unique health care needs. Now, two recent studies have shown how acupuncture can help women to get healthy and stay that way.
The first study looked at how acupuncture can alleviate depression during pregnancy.1 This disorder is more common than you might think. One study estimates that about 13 percent of pregnant women will experience depression during their second trimester.2 This is made even more difficult because pregnant women cannot take any antidepressants.

Now, a study in the March issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology may provide a way to help these women. A group of researchers at Stanford University provided one of three treatments to 150 pregnant women with major depression. The women received either acupuncture specific to depression, general acupuncture or massage therapy for 12 sessions over eight weeks. At the end of the treatments, they found that the women who received depression-specific acupuncture treatment had a 63 percent response rate, compared to either of the other two control treatments (44 percent).

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that depression-specific acupuncture could be considered a viable treatment option. In a press statement, one of the researchers said, "Pregnancy just by its nature can bring out some underlying psychiatric and emotional issues ... but treatment of depression during pregnancy is critically important so that a woman can maintain her sense of well being and take good care of herself, her fetus and, someday, her child."

The second study examined the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating severe menstrual cramps. This disorder, otherwise known as primary dysmenorrhea, is one of the most common gynecological complaints.3 It can affect as many as half of young women.

A recent study in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology might have an answer for this painful disorder in the form of acupuncture treatments.4 A group of Korean researchers looked at 27 randomized controlled trial (RTC) studies done on acupuncture for dysmenorrhea, which involved a total of 3,000 women. The studies, including those in English, Japanese and Korean, came from 19 different databases.

By comparing findings across all 27 studies, they determined that there was promising evidence for the use of acupuncture to treat dysmenorrhea, as compared to either herbal or pharmacological medicine.

In their paper, the researchers concluded, "The review found promising evidence in the form of RCTs for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhoea compared with pharmacological treatment or herbal medicine."

In a separate press statement, they added, "There is convincing evidence on the effectiveness of using acupuncture to treat pain as it stimulates the production of endorphins and serotonin in the central nervous system."


  1. Manber R, Schnyer RN, Lyell D, et al. Acupuncture for depression during pregnancy: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol Mar 2010;115(3):511-20.
  2. Bennett HA, Einarson A, Taddio A, et al. Prevalence of depression during pregnancy: systematic review. Obstet Gynecol Apr 2004;103(4):698-709.
  3. Calis KA, Popat V, Dang DK, Kalantaridou SN. Dysmenorrhea. eMedicine Jan 28, 2009.
  4. Cho S-H, Hwang E-W. Acupuncture for primary dysmenorrhoea: a systematic review. BJOG 2010 Feb 17 [Epub ahead of print].