Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression: Randomized non-invasive sham-controlled pilot trial of electroacupuncture

Author: Chung KF, Yeung WF, Zhang ZJ, Yung KP, Man SC, Lee CP, Lam SK, Leung TW, Leung KY, Ziea ET, Taam Wong V.

Location: Department of Psychiatry, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, SAR, China.


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.

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.

There was significant reduction in HDRS17 score 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.

Small sample size and high attrition rate. No waiting list observation group.

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.


The full article may be purchased from Science direct.