A new study from researchers at Stanford University suggests that acupuncture treatment may be effective in reducing depression symptoms during pregnancy, even though it has not been found to be effective against depression in general.
According to a New York Times piece on the study from February 24, 2010, Stanford researchers recruited 150 depressed women who were 12 to 30 weeks pregnant. Of those women, 52 received acupuncture specifically designed for depression symptoms, 49 just received regular acupuncture, and 49 received Swedish massage. After eight weeks, almost two-thirds of the women who had received depression-specific acupuncture reported a reduction in their depression symptoms of least 50 percent. In the other two groups, just under half of the women reported feeling less depressed.
What should you make of these results? "I don't think that one-size-fits-all treatments are appropriate for everyone, but acupuncture should be considered as an option," says study co-author Dr. Deirdre Lyell, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford. "Because there's this concern about medication among pregnant women and their physicians, it's important to find an alternative," adds Rachel Manber, the study's other co-author and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the university. The study appears in the March 2010 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Symptoms of major depression include feelings of dread, gloom, and hopelessness, and a loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities. Some women suffer from depression before becoming pregnant, stop taking their medication and then experience a relapse. For other women, pregnancy itself may cause depression.
According to a Stanford School of Medicine press release, clinicians aren't exactly sure how pregnancy leads to the disorder, but an influx of hormones could be the culprit. Some women might also feel overwhelmed by the major changes in their life, which could trigger depression. "Pregnancy just by its nature can bring out some underlying psychiatric and emotional issues," notes Dr. Lyell.