Acupuncture for depression in pregnancy


NICM researchers are conducting a randomised controlled trial (RCT) investigating whether acupuncture is an effective treatment option for depression in pregnancy, and in addition, whether this effect if demonstrated, also continues into the postnatal period.


Depression in pregnancy is actually quite common, with incidence ranges of 7.4 per cent to highs of 25 per cent in vulnerable at risk groups. Conventional treatments include psychotherapy and or antidepressants for moderate cases to combinations of different classes of anti-depressants and or electro-convulsive therapy for more severe cases. Standard therapies are limited in regard to efficacy, compliance and acceptability, especially in relation to foetal exposure to antidepressant side effects and toxicity.

Preliminary evidence evaluating acupuncture as an alternative treatment option, although limited to a small number of studies, is promising in regard to both safety and effectiveness. The main aim of this study is to further investigate this treatment possibility, with an additional emphasis on evaluating whether an acupuncture effect can be detected in the oxytocinergic system. This system, involved in stress buffering, mental health and maternal-infant bonding, appears to be disrupted in depression.

The RCT is being conducted by the study investigator Simone Ormsby as part of a Higher Degree by Research, Doctorate of Philosophy and is under the close supervision of Professor's Caroline Smith, Hannah Dahlen, Phillipa Hay and Associate Professor Joanne Lind from the Western Sydney University.

What does participation in this research involve?

This study is open to pregnant women aged 18 years or older identified as mild to moderately depressed using the Edinburgh Depression Scale (EDS). Eligible women will be randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups namely: non-treatment, progressive muscle relaxation or depression specific acupuncture. The different groups are necessary in order to make comparisons that will enable proper interpretation of study findings.

The study period runs from the 24th week until end of the 31st week of pregnancy. Data in the form of questionnaires will be collected at study commencement, the end of the 4th and 8th week and at 6-weeks post-natal. Blood and saliva samples will also be collected at study commencement and completion, with an additional saliva sample being collected at the end of the 4th week.

Further information and who to contact

View the information poster PDF, 265.99 KB (opens in a new window)

Download the Participant Information Sheet PDF, 169.17 KB (opens in a new window)

If you would like any additional information or have any queries about the study, please contact Simone Ormsby by email: or by phone on 0414 476 711.

Human Research Ethics Committee Approval
The study has been approved by the South Western Sydney Local Health District Human Research Ethics Committee - HREC/14/LPOOL/400, SSA -14/228, 02 8738 8304,