Does Acupuncture Induction Work?

In recent years, acupuncture has become an increasingly popular treatment for various medical conditions. One area where acupuncture has shown potential is in the realm of pregnancy and labour induction. So it begs the question “Does Acupuncture Induction Work?”

Let’s start by discussing the study: Nari I, Pignatti L, Fontanesi F, Facchinetti F. Acupuncture in Post Date Pregnancy Management: JAMS 2018 Oct;11(5):332-336. doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2018.06.001. Epub 2018 Jun 8. that investigated the effects of acupuncture on pregnant women and their need for labour induction, particularly in cases of prolonged pregnancy. This study aimed to determine whether acupuncture can help to reduce the need for pharmacological labour induction. This is often associated with side effects for both the mother and the baby.

Acupuncture vs. Pharmacological Labour Induction

When a pregnancy continues beyond its due date, doctors may opt for labour induction to help initiate the birthing process. Common methods of induction include the use of prostaglandins or oxytocin infusion. While these methods can be effective, they can also lead to complications and side effects for both the mother and the baby. Acupuncture, on the other hand, is a traditional Chinese medicine technique used to help soften the cervix and induce uterine contractions, potentially reducing the need for pharmacological labour induction.

Study Overview

The study involved 375 pregnant women who had not yet given birth after 40 + 2 weeks of gestation. These women were divided into two groups. 112 women who received acupuncture treatments and 263 women who received standard care (the control group). The acupuncture treatments were administered every other day starting at 40 + 2 weeks until 41 + 4 weeks. If the women had not given birth by 41 + 5 weeks, they were scheduled for pharmacological labour induction.

Results of the Study

The results of the study showed that the rate of labour induction was significantly lower among the women who received acupuncture compared to those who did not (19.6% vs. 38%; p < 0.01). Specifically, the women who underwent acupuncture had a lower rate of induction due to prolonged pregnancy (5.3% vs. 10.1%; p < 0.01).

So, does Acupuncture Induction work?

The study suggests that acupuncture, when applied during the final weeks of pregnancy, can effectively reduce the need for labour induction, particularly in cases of prolonged pregnancy at 41 + 5 weeks. Additionally, acupuncture appears to help decrease the use of oxytocin, which can have adverse effects on birth outcomes.

Implications for Pregnant Women and Healthcare Providers

The findings of this study have significant implications for pregnant women and healthcare providers. By reducing the need for pharmacological labour induction, acupuncture can potentially decrease the risk of side effects and complications for both the mother and the baby. This makes acupuncture a valuable alternative treatment option for pregnant women who are approaching their due dates.

It is important to note that acupuncture should only be performed by a qualified and experienced practitioner.  Improper technique can lead to complications. Pregnant women who are interested in acupuncture should consult with their healthcare providers to determine if this treatment is suitable for them.

Next Steps

Acupuncture offers a promising alternative to pharmacological labour induction for pregnant women, particularly those experiencing prolonged pregnancy. By reducing the need for labour-inducing drugs, acupuncture can help to decrease the risk of complications and improve overall birth outcomes. At Fertile Ground Health Group we suggest starting your birth preparation acupuncture from 36 weeks. We know from other studies that this is the optimal time to start to reduced the need for labour-inducing drugs. 

Written by Fertile Ground registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, Joanne Sharkey.

Are you in third trimester with the birth soon approaching?  Book with Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbal Medicine Practitioner, Joanne, by navigating to bookings > Acupuncture > Acupuncture Induction INITIAL (60 mins)



Acupuncture in Postdate Pregnancy Management