Acupuncture May Help Pregnant Women With Depression, Says University of Texas at Austin Pharmacy Researcher

Feb. 24, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — Acupuncture may hold promise for depression in pregnant women, a new study, co-authored by a University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy researcher, shows.

The findings, published in the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, show that 12 acupuncture treatments over eight weeks might help reduce the severity of depression symptoms.

"The protocol we have tested was effective, indicating that acupuncture may be a viable alternative to treat depression during pregnancy," said Dr. Rosa Schnyer, clinical assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, whose research has focused on the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for major depression in women, and who was one of the leading investigators in the study.

The study on depression and pregnant women, led by researchers at Stanford University, followed 150 pregnant women with major depression. Researchers found women who received depression-specific acupuncture were more likely to have a treatment response—meaning the severity of their symptoms fell by at least half and they no longer met all of the criteria for diagnosing major depression.

It's estimated that 3 to 5 percent of pregnant women are diagnosed with depression. Although, antidepressant medications are one treatment option, there are safety concerns.

Because of the potential for harm from medications, many pregnant women with depression may prefer psychotherapy or other non-drug options.

Acupuncture has been used for more than 2,000 years in Chinese medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. Modern research has most often focused on the effects of acupuncture on painful conditions, like chronic back pain and migraines. Researchers speculate it may help ease pain by altering signals among nerve cells or affecting the release of various chemicals of the central nervous system.

The exact mechanism by which acupuncture works is not well understood, however, interactions between acupuncture and the neurotransmitter system have been demonstrated.

For more information, contact: Nancy Neff; Rosa Schnyer, 512-743-6321.

7 Comments to "Acupuncture May Help Pregnant Women With Depression, Says University of Texas at Austin Pharmacy Researcher"

1.  jim said on March 3, 2010

Isn't acupuncture counter-indicated during pregnancy? I thought it was one of the few times when accupuncture could actually be dangerous.

2.  Marie Green said on March 4, 2010

Where do they place acupuncture needles to relieve depression? Behind the ear? Or near the womb?

3.  Kit Garcia said on March 4, 2010

Acupuncture is not contraindicated during pregnancy. Some specific acupuncture points and needling techniques are (during certain stages) because they are known to hasten labor.

4.  Peggy said on March 6, 2010

This study is not as clear cut as represented here. A good discussion of questions regarding this study can be found online at

5.  Carol Jackson, L.Ac. said on March 6, 2010

There are only about six acupuncture points that are contraindicated in pregnancy and licensed acupuncturists are well aware of them. There are many points that can be used to treat depression without resorting to the contraindicated points. Some are in the ear, at the toes, on the wrists, on the palms, on the scalp and on the back.

6.  Adrien Ponticorvo said on March 9, 2010

Don't be in a rush to make an appointment with your local acupuncturist. The current Cochrane reviews for acupuncture used to treat depression ( and acupuncture to treat depression during pregnancy ( show insufficient evidence to recommend using acupuncture.

7.  Jane E Anderson said on April 18, 2010

We have an acupuncture clinic, purely for symptoms manifesting in pregnancy (pain, depression, morning sickness, edema to name a few) we have techniques that are beneficial pre-labour, and during labour and post labour. We are getting very positive feedback from our patients. For a great resource from a very experienced nurse, mid-wife and acupuncturist and teacher, complete with case studies read "The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth" by Debra Betts, or Google her name to find out more.