The safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: a systematic review

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Abstract

Objective

Although there is a growing interest in the use of acupuncture during pregnancy, the safety of acupuncture is yet to be rigorously investigated. The objective of this review is to identify adverse events (AEs) associated with acupuncture treatment during pregnancy.

Methods

We searched Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED) and five Korean databases up to February 2013. Reference lists of relevant articles were screened for additional reports. Studies were included regardless of their design if they reported original data and involved acupuncture needling and/or moxibustion treatment for any conditions in pregnant women. Studies of acupuncture for delivery, abortion, assisted reproduction or postpartum conditions were excluded. AE data were extracted and assessed in terms of severity and causality, and incidence was determined.

Results

Of 105 included studies, detailed AEs were reported only in 25 studies represented by 27 articles (25.7%). AEs evaluated as certain, probable or possible in the causality assessment were all mild/moderate in severity, with needling pain being the most frequent. Severe AEs or deaths were few and all considered unlikely to have been caused by acupuncture. Total AE incidence was 1.9%, and the incidence of AEs evaluated as certainly, probably or possibly causally related to acupuncture was 1.3%.

Conclusions

Acupuncture during pregnancy appears to be associated with few AEs when correctly applied.

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