Zhejiang University: International joint research reveals the efficacy of acupoint hot compress on postpartum recovery

The postpartum period, especially the first few weeks after childbirth, could be a challenging time for mothers, as they experience adjustments to life with newborns, as well as discomfort and stress brought by postpartum urinary retention, contraction pain, breastfeeding concerns and other puerperal complications. Postpartum care is very significant to promote lifelong physical and psychological well-being of mothers and newborns.

Acupoint hot compress, with a combination of acupoints and natural physical agent heat, is considered as an effective complementary treatment in regulating the pressure pain threshold and improving the quality of life. Previous studies have found that warm compress bistage intervention can substantially reduce the intensity of pain on the day after delivery. Due to its non-invasive feature, acupoint hot compress has great potential to become a physically and mentally more acceptable treatment option for postpartum care. However, the effects of acupoint hot compress on early puerperium remain uncertain due to lack of evidence-based support from clinical trials.

Recently, the team led by Dr. QU Fan from Women’s Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University (WHZJU), in collaboration with the team of Prof. HAN Jisheng from Peking University, the team of Prof. LEE Myeong Soo from the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, as well as Prof. Nicola Robinson from London South Bank University and Prof. HU Xiaoyang(Mio) from University of Southampton, published a paper entitled “Effect of Acupoint Hot Compress on Postpartum Urinary Retention After Vaginal Delivery A Randomized Clinical Trial” in the journal JAMA Network Open.

In the study, a multicenter, randomized clinical trial was conducted at 12 hospitals in China. 13949 pregnant women were screened and 1200 parturients were enrolled after vaginal delivery from 17 January 2021 to 15 August 2021, with data collection completed on 18 August 2021. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive 3 sessions of acupoint hot compress over 3 days, involving the abdominal (Shenque[RN8 acupoint]), lumbosacral (Baliao [BL31-BL34 acupoints]) and plantar (Yongquan [KI1 acupoint]) regions, with routine postpartum care (Intervention group, n = 600) or only routine postpartum care (as controls, n = 600). Among the 1200 randomized participants, 1085 completed the study. This randomized clinical trial found that acupoint hot compress applied to the abdominal, lumbosacral, and plantar regions decreased the incidence of postpartum urinary retention, reduced uterine contraction pain, improved depressive symptoms, and increased breastfeeding milk volume for individuals after a vaginal delivery. No adverse event occurred in both two groups.

This study provides an evidence-based recommendation that acupoint hot compress may be considered as an adjunctive intervention in postpartum care.