This story reports on a small, randomized trial evaluating acupuncture for the treatment of depression in pregnant women. This story has numerous flaws, the biggest of which was relying heavily on the press release.
By relying on a news release for quotes, this story missed some of the caveats and words of caution from researchers and independent experts that we saw in other stories.
There was no discussion regarding the cost of acupuncture, a particularly important omission since acupuncture is not covered by all insurance companies.
The story tells the us that acupuncture significantly improved symptoms compared to the other treatment groups, but then it states that there was no difference in remission rates. A discussion on what this mixed outcome means would have been useful.
While acupuncture is generally safe, the story should have mentioned that 21 women in the study reported transient pain at the site of needle insertion and 1 woman experienced bleeding.
The story did a nice job describing the study methods, pointing out that the patients were randomly assigned to a treatment group and that the people measuring their outcome were not aware which treatment the patients were receiving. These are all signs of a rigorous study design, but the story does not tell the reader why these methods are so important. The story also should have noted that a study with 150 participants is still relatively small.
This story indicates that 14% of pregnant women may suffer from depression; however, the writer might have also noted that 3-5% of pregnant women have actually been diagnosed.
No independent experts were interviewed for this story.
While the story discussed antidepressants, there was no mention of how acupuncture compares to psychotherapy, another non-drug alternative that does not put the fetus at any direct risk.
The acupuncture treatment appears to have been customized for depression. Depression-specific acupuncture is not likely to be available everywhere. The story didn’t tell us.
While prior research has studied the effects of acupuncture on depression, it’s still a novel treatment approach. Unfortunately, we can’t tell this from the story.
The information in this story was taken largely from a press release