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Acupuncture Helps Relieve Pregnancy Symptoms


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

It turns out that acupuncture can be very helpful when it comes to relieving indigestion and heartburn, the symptoms that bother many women throughout their pregnancy, says a new study from Brazilian experts.

Indigestion is quite common during pregnancy, with 45 to 80 per cent of future mothers experiencing discomfort with stomach pain, heartburn, reflux, belching and bloating. Symptoms tend to get worse by the third trimester, and women who do not want to take medication not to harm the development of the fetus, have now an opportunity to use an alternative treatment.

For the study purposes, the investigators involved 42 women with the ages between 15 and 39 years who were between 15 and 30 weeks into their pregnancy. All the women reported symptoms of indigestion and none of them had had acupuncture in the previous year. Also, none of the women had an underlying condition that could have triggered the symptoms, and none reported a history of similar problems before they became pregnant.

Researchers randomly assigned all moms-to-be with indigestion into two groups: one group was receiving conventional treatment - counseling on dietary changes with antacids (indigestion remedies); and ladies in the other group received dietary counseling and antacids plus acupuncture once or twice on a weekly basis. During the acupuncture procedure, on average, twelve needles were used and were left in the body for about 25 minutes per session. The experts assessed the women's symptoms at the beginning of the study and every 2 weeks after that for the period of 2 months.

The results revealed that heartburn, the symptom that caused the most discomfort in pregnant women, was reduced by half in 75 per cent of the study participants who had been assigned to the acupuncture therapy. Women receiving acupuncture also showed improvement in their appetite and sleep, said a principal investigator, Dr. Joao Bosco Guerreiro da Silva, from the department of internal medicine at Rio Preto Medical College.

Twenty of women who received acupuncture treatment and completed the study said that their symptoms got milder and much more tolerable and reported taking less medication, compared to the 16 ladies who received conventional therapy, the experts found. Fewer than half the women who underwent traditional treatment said that their heartburn was halved.

The study found that among the 14 women who were taking medication for indigestion, seven in each group, those who underwent the acupuncture therapy took 6.3 fewer doses, whereas those who received conventional treatment increased the amount of medication they took by 4.4 doses. In addition, 15 women in the acupuncture group reported that their eating habits improved by 50 per cent, compared with less than one out of 3 in the other group. Fourteen future moms who received acupuncture said that their sleep had improved by 50 per cent, when compared with just one out of 4 women in a conventional therapy group.

According to Dr. da Silva, regardless of its small size, the study demonstrates that acupuncture can relieve symptoms of indigestion that are pretty common in pregnancy and can lead to loss of life quality in the final months of pregnancy, interfering not only with eating habits, but as well with a woman's sleep.

The research was carried out involving a small group of pregnant women, and the investigators acknowledge that further studies on larger numbers are needed in order to confirm their new findings. "Acupuncture is simple to apply and if used in an appropriate manner, can reduce the need for medication," they concluded.

The findings are published in the June issue of the Acupuncture in Medicine journal.

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