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Acupuncture Benefits for Post-Partum Depression

According to studies, one in seven women can develop postpartum depression (PPD).  PPD can stretch out for months and can affect a woman’s ability to bond with her infant. While traditional medicine and medical interventions can help to an extent, studies show that acupuncture can offer better and sustainable results.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

The term ‘postpartum’ means ‘time after birth.’ Childbirth can be a physically and emotionally exhausting process. Many women can develop ‘baby blues’ post-delivery but if the condition persists for more than two weeks, they are usually diagnosed with postpartum depression.

Common Symptoms

PPD symptoms can differ from one person to the next and can increase or decrease in intensity. If you have postpartum depression, chances are that you:

  • Feel exhausted but sleep alludes you or you sleep for hours.
  • Cry a lot without knowing why.
  • Cannot stop eating or are not interested in food at all.
  • Feel as if your life is out of control.
  • Get mood swings without warning.
  • Have unexplained aches and pains.
  • Have difficulty remembering things or focusing.
  • Have no interest in things you used to enjoy.
  • Don’t feel anything for your baby and wonder why you are not filled with joy.
  • Feel guilty and worthless as a mother.
  • Withdraw from friends and family because you don’t want to be judged.
  • Have thoughts about self-harm or about harming the baby.

Taking these symptoms into account, it is little wonder why suicide is one of the leading causes of death in postpartum women. The study also revealed that women who experienced physical and sexual abuse as children were more prone to the condition. According to the same study, as per a postpartum depression screening program of 10,000 women, diagnosed postpartum women had high rates of self-harm ideation as well as frequent thoughts of self-harm.

How PPD Can Affect Your Baby

If PPD is left untreated, it can have an adverse effect on a baby. That’s because women who have this condition are more likely to:

  • Miss postpartum check-ups deliberately and fail to follow instructions from their doctor.
  • Pull away from their babies emotionally.
  • Fail to breastfeed their baby which in turn can lead to nutrition deficiencies in the latter.
  • Fail to get their babies checked out at the hospital if they are sick and need immediate care. They may also skip essential vaccinations that can protect their child from harmful infections.

What Is Postpartum Psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is rare, but it can manifest in PPD patients who suffer from bipolar disorder or any other serious mental health condition. Some of the symptoms that are associated with this condition include the following:

  • Rapid mood swings throughout the day.
  • Reckless behavior.
  • Paranoia and suspiciousness.
  • Agitation or restlessness.
  • Difficulty communicating at times.
  • Persistent irritability.
  • Difficulty sleeping.

It is also important to know that most women who get postpartum psychosis never experienced violent delusions and most of them do not harm themselves or anyone else. However, the risk of danger is there because postpartum psychosis leads to irrational judgment which can have terrible consequences.              This is why the illness should be assessed as quickly as possible and patients should be carefully monitored. The condition is temporary and treatable with acupuncture and traditional psychological interventions.

Acupuncture Benefits for Postpartum Depression

Acupuncture has been used for years to treat postpartum depression in women. The needling method has been known to alleviate common PPD symptoms and/or reduce their severity enough to allow patients to manage them.

Depending on which part of the body is targeted, acupuncture can:

  • Trigger the nervous system to produce painkillers or neurotransmitters.
  • Stimulate parts of the brain that release serotonin and which control our emotions.
  • Jumpstart the body’s natural ability to heal.

Traditional interventions for postpartum depression include the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS) and the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAMD). The main treatment methods include drug therapy, physical therapy and psychological intervention.

Acupuncture has been gaining traction as an efficient treatment for PPD for its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, which overarches all of the tendencies that patients can feel.

A study of several reviews was conducted that proved this theory. Since there was no specific criterion for PPD diagnosis, a two-step screening method was used in most of the studies that were taken into account. All of the patients that were included in the analysis met the diagnostic criteria of PPD. In the treatment group, patients underwent several acupuncture treatments and in the control group, patients were administered placebos such as herb and psychological interventions.

At the end of the studies, it was concluded that patients in the acupuncture group showed significantly better results as per the Hamilton Depression Scale compared to those in the control group. The conclusion is that acupuncture seems to be efficient in improving some PPD symptoms where traditional methods fail.


At the American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) Main Clinic, we offer treatments that are conducted by trained, experienced and licensed acupuncturists on staff. Book a consultation today by dialling 713-780-9786.  The treatment is also available at all ACAOM at Houston Methodist Hospital locations at 713-441-5980. Get in touch with us for a consultation today!

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