Acupuncture in the Perinatal Period: Childbearing aged women's attitudes, beliefs and practices to using acupuncture during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period

Author: Heidi Williams

Williams, Heidi, 2018 Acupuncture in the Perinatal Period: Childbearing aged women's attitudes, beliefs and practices to using acupuncture during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period, Flinders University, College of Nursing and Health Sciences

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Abstract

Acupuncture during the perinatal period hopes to increase normal birth and enhance a woman’s birth experience by decreasing intervention and adverse birth outcomes. Acupuncture in the perinatal period, in Australian maternity services, has not been well accepted, and it is unclear whether women are supportive of acupuncture as an adjunct or alternative treatment during their childbearing experience. There is limited literature in Australia on acupuncture during the perinatal period and, to the best of my knowledge, there is a gap in understanding women’s attitudes and beliefs towards using acupuncture during the perinatal period; which led to this research study.

The aim of this study was to determine childbearing aged women’s attitudes, beliefs and practices to using acupuncture during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Data was collected through an online survey using a tool that was developed to specifically answer the research question. Pilot testing and test/retest was also undertaken to enhance reliability of the tool.

A sample size of 302 was suitable for the study and childbearing aged women from the Hunter and Central Coast regions of New South Wales were targeted to complete the survey. Respondents were recruited via Facebook birth and parenting groups and pages, with a recruitment advertisement posted on news feeds by page administrators or the researcher.

A total of 304 women completed the survey and were recruited into the study with 77% residing in the Hunter and Central Coast regions of New South Wales, Australia. The survey findings showed 68% of all respondents had used acupuncture with mostly positive outcomes, and for concerns during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Additionally, 89% of respondents would consider using acupuncture during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Respondents beliefs about trying acupuncture during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period were very positive and as this was the first study of its kind, to the researcher’s knowledge, it was difficult to find similar studies. However, three studies did show women would try acupuncture again during birth and the postnatal period.

When respondents were asked about their beliefs of a midwife providing acupuncture treatments during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period, findings were once again positive. More than 67% and up to 93% of women strongly agreed or agreed to the positively worded statements. Most respondents strongly disagreed or disagreed that a midwife providing an acupuncture treatment was a threat to public health. Many women responded similarly when asked if a midwife’s acupuncture treatment was due to the placebo effect or if improved birth experiences and outcomes would have nothing to do with an acupuncture treatment by a midwife. However, more respondents were ‘unsure’ to these two last statements. Most of these statements were broadly consistent with other studies on the attitudes and beliefs of acupuncture or Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).

In summary, the majority of childbearing aged women surveyed; would consider acupuncture in the perinatal period, were positive to trying acupuncture for various concerns or issues during the perinatal period and were positive towards a midwife providing acupuncture treatments to women in their care. These findings highlight the need for women to have choice of an adjunct or alternative treatment during their pregnancy and birthing experience.

Recommendations and actions include: raising awareness of the research to women and their families and health professionals working in maternity services; raising awareness via a local media release and recontacting the Facebook groups and pages who posted the survey weblink; publishing results in a peer-reviewed journal, and further quantitative and qualitative research and clinical research on acupuncture in the perinatal period. Further research would focus on childbearing aged women’s perceptions of a midwife providing an acupuncture/acuneedling treatment during the perinatal period, and on midwives providing acupuncture/acuneedling treatments that may address concerns such as fetal posterior positioning in labour with an epidural insitu.

Keywords: acupuncture, acuneedling, perinatal, pregnancy, labour, birth, postnatal

Subject: Midwifery thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2018
School: College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Supervisor: Linda Sweet