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Acupuncture For Labor Induction: Does it Work?

By ceridwen |

A new study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that acupuncture doesn’t help induce labor in a post-40 week pregnancy. Acupuncture is sometimes recommended as a natural, non-invasive way to induce labor. But in this study of 125 women who had passed their due dates, acupuncture didn’t get labor going. Half the women were given two sessions of acupuncture post 40 weeks, the other got fake treatments. The real acupuncture set didn’t go into labor any faster than the others.

I have read research supporting acupuncture for induction, this from 2001; in 2003, the World Health Organization listed it as “proved-through controlled trials-to be an effective treatment” for labor induction. Other data show we have insufficient evidence.

In traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture has long been used to help regulate women’s gynecological health. Some women swear up and down that it got labor going for them. And some childbirth educators I know recommend starting acupuncture several weeks before the estimated due date, rather than rushing in for a quick appointment post 40 weeks. This new study didn’t look at the effects of longer term acupuncture treatment.

I once asked an acupuncturist what she thought of inductions via acupuncture and she shrugged and said, “Yeah, sometimes that’s what’s needed, sometimes it’s something else.”

I’ll throw this new research in with all the other info. It seems reasonable to keep acupuncture on the list of non-medical induction techniques that “might get” things going alongside things like walking, sex, and nipple-stimulation. The above video is a helpful guide to DIY labor-inducing acupressure. When you’re waiting for labor to kick in, a really long nice massage with a little acupressure tossed in for good measure… hey, who cares what the studies say?

via MSN and Reuters

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About ceridwen



Ceridwen Morris is a writer, mother, and certified childbirth educator. She is the author of several books and screenplays, including (Three Rivers; 2007). She serves on the board of The Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan New York and teaches at Tribeca Parenting in New York City. Read bio and latest posts → Read Ceridwen's latest posts →

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8 thoughts on “Acupuncture For Labor Induction: Does it Work?

  1. Karen Vaughan, L.Ac. says:

    The study used the same points for all 125 women, even-though there are different reasons for labor being stalled. One of the points actually functions to pull things up, the opposite of what you want to do. They avoided the points on the abdomen and sacrum known for inducing labor. And they did not check to see whether the lungs of the baby were finished clearing. Babies come out when ready, not for the convenience of the doctor or on a calendar schedule. Your acupuncturist will work with you for an individualized protocol, with the proper types and levels of stimulation if your baby is developed but not coming out.

  2. ceridwen says:

    Karen, Thank you so much for this insight.

  3. Jeannie says:

    I had acupuncture in the weeks leading up to the birth of my second baby. I don’t know if it brought on labour or not, but my last treatment was 3pm Thursday and my daughter was born 12 hours later (and I was not in labour at the appointment). The delivery was fast and easy. I don’t know if theacupuncture helped, but I’d do it again I’d there’s a third!

  4. naomi says:

    I had acupuncture starting at about 37 weeks for my first born. At 40 weeks 2 days I had to be induced due to an arrhythmia in my baby.4 I was
    1 cm and 0% effaced.
    40 hrs later, I had an emergency C.
    I spent a lot of time and $ onthat acupuncture and was disappointed that it didn’t work for me.

  5. ldancer says:

    AcuPRESSURE did nothing, but AcuPUNCTURE seemed to work at nearly 42 weeks. I hate all needles, even the hair-thin acupuncture needles, but I did it because I was so desperate for labor to start already, and I wasn’t comfortable with any of the other induction options – in fact, pitocin induction was explicitly not recommended for me due to my daughter’s projected size. Who knows, maybe she would have come on that day anyway, but I do think that the treatment helped, and it was nice to relax in that pleasant room for an hour, feeling her bump around in there and knowing she’d be here soon.

  6. Janell says:

    i am 37 wks and 1 day… i am 4 cm 80% effaced -2… i am wanted to know how to help things along… everything that i have tried doesnt seem to be working… im tired of feeling like this… this is one of my worst pregnancies… this will be my 4th… my others went so smoothly… im wanting to know how to get it going…

  7. ceridwen says:

    Janell– You JUST went over 37 weeks, so from a health standpoint, there’s no reason to get the labor going, term goes all the way from 37 weeks to 42 weeks. But, you’ll very doubtfully get anywhere near that given how far you’ve come already and this is your fourth so things might move really fast once labor starts in earnest. And it sounds like you’re having a wretched time of it. I’ve just written a big piece about natural induction but it hasn’t been published yet :( – here are the basics: sex (his sperm has prostaglandins, your orgasm releases oxytocin– both of these are the hormones of labor) , nipple stimulation (stimulates the breastfeeding and labor hormones oxytocin), darkness, walking, massage, acupressure or puncture (look online for some acupressure videos, you’ll get specific instructions), spicy food, stripping of the membranes (your care provider would have to do this one) and herbs. You can try red raspberry leaf tea. Or evening primrose oil on the cervix or orally– you can look up blue and black cohash. Castor Oil can work but it’s NASTY. Do not try castor oil or the cohash herbs or evening primrose without talking to your doc/midwife first. Esp. castor oil, b/c it’s strong. Good luck! People always say the “last thing you do, is the one that will work.”

  8. Angelica Renee' says:

    well I am 39 weeks and 3 days and i dont want to go over due. I understand the baby will come when its ready but i have been very uncomfortable and having contractions “real contractions” off and off since a month ago. Now I am to the point that I can barely even walk or move my legs. My last appointment I was told I was about 2cm and 50 effaced and I had my second membrane sweep and still nothing. I have been trying the acupressure for the past 45min and I am feeling small contractions. I will continue it for a little while longer but I am feeling something. I am not sure if it works yet but I am willing to keep trying it.

    By the way I am doing it myself using the instructional videos i have watched.

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