Cochrane Summaries

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Acupuncture for induction of labour

Smith CA, Crowther CA, Grant SJ
Published Online: 
15 August 2013

There is insufficient evidence describing the efficacy of acupuncture to induce labour.

Sometimes it is necessary to bring on labour artificially because of safety concerns for the mother or baby. Induction of labour (getting labour started artificially) is common when the pregnancy is posing a risk. Various methods of preparing the cervix of the uterus and inducing labour are available to the pregnant woman or her unborn child. Some women look to complementary therapies during pregnancy and childbirth to be used alongside conventional medical practice.

Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into specific points of the body and has been used to help ripen the cervix, induce labour and reduce labour pains. The review included 14 trials with data reporting on 2220 women randomised to receive acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture or usual care. Most trials were from Western countries, with only two from Asia. The evidence regarding the clinical effectiveness of this technique was limited. No trial reported on vaginal delivery not achieved within 24 hours, uterine hyperstimulation with fetal heart rate changes, and serious maternal illness or death. Caesarean deliveries and neonatal seizures were no different. The trials used different acupuncture points, number of treatments and methods of acupuncture, (manual or electro-acupuncture). More research is needed.

This record should be cited as: 
Smith CA, Crowther CA, Grant SJ. Acupuncture for induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD002962. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002962.pub3
Assessed as up to date: 
14 December 2012