Randomized non-invasive sham-controlled pilot trial of electroacupuncture for postpartum depression

Ka Fai Chung, Wing Fai Yeung, Zhang Jin Zhang, Kam Ping Yung, Sui Cheung Man, Chin Peng Lee, Siu Keung Lam, Tsin Wah Leung, Kwok Yin Leung, Eric Tat Chi Ziea, Vivian Taam Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Postpartum depression affects 10-15% of mothers. Although acupuncture was efficacious for major depressive disorder in pregnancy and in women outside the perinatal period, there has been no randomized controlled study on the feasibility, tolerability, and efficacy of acupuncture for postpartum depression. Methods: This was a randomized, subject- and assessor-blind, parallel-group, sham-controlled trial. Twenty women within six months postpartum with DSM-IV-diagnosed major depressive disorder of mild severity, defined as a 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS17) score of 12 to 19, were randomly assigned to either electroacupuncture or non-invasive sham acupuncture two sessions weekly for four weeks. Results: There was significant reduction in HDRS17score from baseline to 4-week posttreatment in both groups, with an effect size 1.4 and 1.8 for electroacupuncture and sham acupuncture, respectively. Improvement was observed as early as two weeks after commencing acupuncture. The response and remission rate in the electroacupuncture group at 4-week posttreatment was 33% and 44%, respectively; for the sham acupuncture group, it was 60% and 50%, respectively. There was no significant between-group difference in all outcome measures, including the HDRS17, Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Clinical Global Impression, and Sheehan Disability Scale. Treatment credibility, success of blinding, and adverse events were similar between groups. Limitation: Small sample size and high attrition rate. No waiting list observation group. Conclusion: Both electroacupuncture and non-invasive sham acupuncture were effective for postpartum depression. Further studies utilizing larger sample size, better recruitment strategies, and home-based acupuncture treatment are warranted. Clinical trial information: Pilot Study on the Use of Acupuncture for Postpartum Depression; ClinicalTrials.gov Registration #NCT01178008; URL - http://clinicaltrials.gov/ ct2/show/NCT01178008?term=postpartumacupuncture&rank=1.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-121
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Acupuncture
  • Depression
  • Postpartum
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Traditional Chinese medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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