If you suffer unbearable lower back pains during pregnancy and are looking for a natural way to relieve the pain, a new study has proven acupuncture to be super effective. A new study published in the journal BMJ Open has found that acupuncture can significantly relieve pain as well as improve functional status and quality of life in pregnant women suffering from lower back and pelvic pain.

Their findings also revealed that it could as well be safe for babies’ health as it showed no observable side effects for babies whose mothers underwent the acupuncture treatment. 

Although the pain-relieving mechanisms of acupuncture remain unknown, studies have shown that it is due to the release of the body’s inherent ‘happy hormones’—endorphins—along with the increased flow of blood to the skin and muscles.

While use of physical therapy, massages, and special pillows are often adopted for relieving lower back pain during pregnancy. However, due to their unclear effectiveness, these therapies are hardly recommended. For this reason, researchers from the Yunnan University of Chinese Medicine set out to investigate the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture for pregnant women with lower back and pelvic pain experienced during pregnancy. 

To do this, the researchers searched databases for eligible studies comparing pain relief awarded to pregnant women given acupuncture only, in combination with other treatments, with a placebo, as well as its possible impact on the fetus.

The researchers looked at data involving 1,040 pregnant women below the age of 35 years from a total of 10 randomized clinical trials. They selected studies involving women with lower back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. Each study was conducted in different countries such as Sweden, the UK, the USA, Spain, and Brazil. The women in these studies were healthy pregnant women that were 17 to 30 weeks, on average, into their pregnancy and suffered lower back pain and pelvic pain. 

Therapists involved in these studies were trained for delivering acupuncture and they included acupuncturists, physiotherapists, and midwives. Seven studies had records of those that received body acupuncture and three studies reported using ear acupuncture.

In addition, seven studies used ‘forbidden points’ in pregnancy as acupuncture points in treating pregnant women. All studies recorded outcomes on pain with nine disclosing that acupuncture significantly eased pain among pregnant women. 

When acupuncture was compared with no and other interventions, four studies reported a significant difference in the overall effect during the time of study and found that acupuncture was relatively safe. In the same way, the team also found four studies that suggested no significant difference in baby’s health when compared with acupuncture and other interventions or none.

Pursuing this further, the researchers did find reported cases of preterm birth from acupuncture in two different studies. Yet, all babies were found to be in good health. Furthermore, they also found minor adverse effects due to acupuncture recorded in seven studies — only to eventually disappear with no effect as the treatment progressed. This, therefore, drove the study authors to consider acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment option for lower back and pelvic pain during pregnancy. 

Finally, due to the side effects that follow medication use and the potential risk of harm to both mother and baby, non-medication treatments such as yoga, massages, exercises, and most particularly, acupuncture, are more appealing in treating lower back and pelvic pain during pregnancy.

The researchers, however, concluded with the need for more future trials to further validate their findings. 

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