Women's experiences of traditional Chinese acupuncture treatment for threatened preterm labour
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Preterm birth is one of the leading causes of neonatal mortality and morbidity in New Zealand and overseas. Neonatal intensive care is the most expensive item in the national health budget. The human cost to the child and the family is significant. In the last twenty five years there has been no reduction in the preterm birth rate despite major advances in neonatal and obstetric care. The aim of this study is to describe and explore the experience of women who had received traditional Chinese acupuncture treatment for threatened preterm labour. I explore the perception of acupuncture as an effective treatment to stop preterm labour, prolong the pregnancy or prevent preterm birth in a subsequent pregnancy, where risk factors are present. This is a descriptive and exploratory case study using a multiple case study design. A purposive sample was selected of five retrospective cases of women who had had a previous preterm birth experience and who had used acupuncture for threatening preterm labour in a subsequent pregnancy. Data was collected from the women using interviews, observations and review of midwifery and acupuncture case notes. The data was analysed using content and thematic analysis and also principles based on the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine. The key finding of the study is that the five women at risk all completed a full-term pregnancy. They all noticed that the signs and symptoms usually associated with threatening preterm labour went away when they had acupuncture. They also experienced a number of significant improvements to their general health and wellbeing. All five were totally happy with the outcomes and the entire acupuncture experience. When intervention is required, acupuncture based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine appears effective as a treatment strategy in preterm labour. Few studies have been done in this area. Further research is needed so that women can be offered choices and healthcare professionals can have confidence in acupuncture as a treatment strategy for threatening preterm labour.