Acupoint Hot Compress May Be Helpful After Vaginal Delivery

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Following vaginal birth, acupoint hot compress involving the abdominal, lumbosacral and plantar regions appears to lessen postpartum urinary retention, uterine contraction pain and depressive symptoms, while promoting lactation, a randomized controlled trial has found.

“Findings of this trial suggest that acupoint hot compress could be considered as an adjunctive intervention in postnatal care,” the study team writes in JAMA Network Open.

The study was conducted at 12 hospitals in China, with 548 women randomly allocated to routine postpartum care and 537 to routine postpartum care plus three sessions of acupoint hot compress within 30 minutes, 24 hours and 48 hours after delivery. Each session lasted four hours.

The incidence of postpartum urinary retention was 4.5% in the acupoint hot compress group and 7.7% in the control group (relative risk, 0.58; P=0.03), report Dr. Fan Qu of Women’s Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, and colleagues.

Acupoint hot compress also significantly reduced uterine contraction pain measured on a visual analog scale at 6.5, 28.5 and 52.5 hours after delivery, lessened depressive symptoms by 27% (P=0.01) and increased breastfeeding milk volume measured at 28.5, 52.5, and 76.5 hours after delivery.

There were no adverse events in either group.

Acupoint hot compress is “more acceptable than other treatments both physically and mentally for patients and their families during puerperium” because it is noninvasive, the authors write.

They caution that the study was unblinded because there was no available placebo hot compress. Also, all of the women were healthy nulliparas with a singleton pregnancy at baseline, meaning the findings may not generalize to multiparas or those with complications. In addition, all interventions and measurements were conducted during hospitalization after a vaginal delivery so the long-term effects of the acupoint hot compress are unknown.

Despite these limitations, the authors say acupoint hot compress may be an effective add-on intervention in postnatal care.

The study was funded by a grant from the Association for Maternal and Child Health, Zhejiang Province, China. The authors have no relevant disclosures.

SOURCE: JAMA Network Open, online May 23, 2022.

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