Acupuncture during Pregnancy

Acupuncture during Pregnancy

The following studies look at the safety of acupuncture during pregnancy and the benefits of pre-birth preparation with acupuncture.

Safety of acupuncture during pregnancy

Hye-yeon Moon at the Jaseng Hospital of Korean Medicine in Seoul, was the lead author of a retrospective study reported in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, which indicated that acupuncture was safe to perform during pregnancy. The researchers analyzed information from 20,799 pregnant women from 2003 to 2012. For preterm deliveries and stillbirths, the researchers found no significant differences between women receiving acupuncture during pregnancy and those who did not. The women received acupuncture primarily to treat digestion problems and back pain.

Birth preparation with acupuncture

The following 4 research studies all focus on the benefits of pre-birth acupuncture, which usually begins from 37 weeks pregnancy.

Research on the use of acupuncture to prepare women for labour first appeared in 1974. It concluded that acupuncture once a week from 37 weeks gestation was successful in reducing the mean labour time of the women treated.They calculated the labour time in two ways. The first was the mean time between a cervical dilation of 3-4 cm and delivery; in the acupuncture group this was 4 hours and 57 minutes compared to five hours and 54 minutes in the control group. The second was the mean subjective time of labour, taken from the onset of regular (10-15 minute) contractions until delivery.   The acupuncture group had a labour time of 6 hours and 36 minutes compared to eight hours and 2 minutes in the controls. The acupuncture points were: Zusanli ST-36, Yanglingquan GB-34, Jiaoxin KID-8 and Shenmai BL-62.    Kubista E, Kucera H. (1974) Geburtshilfe Perinatol; 178 224-9.

A German study on the effects of acupuncture in late pregnancy concluded that acupuncture treatment from 36 weeks gestation had a positive effect on the duration of labour (defined as the time between 3cm cervical dilation and complete dilation) by shortening the first stage of labour.The acupuncture group had a median duration of 196 minutes compared to the control group time of 321 minutes. The acupuncture points used were: Baihui DU-20, Shenmen HE-7 and Neiguan P-6.   Zeisler H, Tempfer C, Mayerhofe Kr, Barrada M, Husslein P (1998) Influence of acupuncture on duration of labour. Gynecol Obstet Invest; 46:22-5

An observational study looked at the effect of prebirth acupuncture given in 14 midwifery practices in New Zealand.169 women who received prebirth acupuncture were compared to local population rates for gestation at onset of labour, incidence of medical induction, length of labour, use of analgesia and type of delivery.  In the acupuncture group there was an overall 35% reduction in the number of inductions (for women having their first baby this was a 43% reduction), 31% reduction in the epidural rate. When comparing midwifery-only care there was a 32% reduction in emergency caesarean delivery and a 9% increase in normal vaginal births.  The study concluded that pre-birth acupuncture appeared to provide some promising therapeutic benefits in assisting women to have normal vaginal births and that a further randomized controlled study is warranted.   Betts D, Lennox S (2006) Acupuncture for prebirth treatment: an observational study of its use in midwifery practice. Medical acupuncture; 17(3):17-20

A study carried out at the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the University of Vienna has shown that prenatal acupuncture can reduce the duration of the first stage of labour (196 minutes versus 321 minutes in a control group), but not the second stage of labour, can significantly reduce the use of oxytocin in both the first and second stages, and significantly raise serum levels of prostaglandin E2 at the end of the first stage.Abstracted in Deutsche Zeitschrift für Akupunktur, 2000, Jg. 43, 1:40.

If you were interested in these studies about Acupuncture during Pregnancy please see our Research page for more information about Fertility and Pregnancy Acupuncture.

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