For the study, Manber and her colleagues recruited 150 pregnant women who were diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. All were between 12 and 30 weeks of gestation.
The women were randomly assigned to one of three groups: depression-specific acupuncture (52 women), control acupuncture (49 women) or massage (49 women). The depression-specific protocol was designed just for this study, and the control acupuncture was specifically designed to avoid using acupuncture needles in any areas known to affect depression.
The treatments lasted for eight weeks. Women received treatment twice a week for the first four weeks, and then once a week for the next four weeks. The treatments lasted an average of 25 minutes.
The researchers found a 63 percent response rate in women who received the depression-specific acupuncture, while the response rate was 44.3 percent in the control acupuncture and massage groups. A response rate was defined as a 50 percent reduction in depression symptoms, Manber said.
Results of the study are scheduled to be published in the March issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
"We found our acupuncture protocol was helpful, but that does not mean that any acupuncture for depression treatment will be effective. The quality of what you get can differ from one practitioner to another," said Manber.
"Our goal is always to find treatments that have the maximum benefits and minimum risk," said Lusskin. "Many women think it's safer for the baby to go off antidepressants, but there's a real risk to the baby for untreated depression in pregnancy. And, we have enough safety data about antidepressant use in pregnancy that we can make informed choices about managing treatment during pregnancy."
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