Acupuncture for induction of labour


  • CA Smith,

    Associate Professor Complementary and Alternative Therapies, Corresponding author
    1. University of South Australia, School of Health Sciences, Adelaide, South Australia, AUSTRALIA
    • CA Smith, Associate Professor Complementary and Alternative Therapies, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, City East Campus, GPO Box 2471, Adelaide, South Australia, 5001, AUSTRALIA.

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  • CA Crowther



This is one of a series of reviews of methods of cervical ripening and labour induction using standardised methodology. The use of complementary therapies is rising and some women look to complementary therapies during pregnancy and childbirth to be used alongside conventional medical practice. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points of the body. The limited observational studies to date suggest acupuncture for induction of labour appears safe, has no known teratogenic effects, and may be effective. The evidence regarding the clinical effectiveness of this technique is limited.


To determine the effects of acupuncture for third trimester cervical ripening or induction of labour.

Search strategy

The Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group trials register, the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register and bibliographies of relevant papers.

Selection criteria

The criteria for inclusion included the following: (1) clinical trials comparing acupuncture used for third trimester cervical ripening or labour induction with placebo/no treatment or other methods listed above it on a predefined list of labour induction methods; (2) random allocation to the treatment or control group; (3) adequate allocation concealment; (4) violations of allocated management not sufficient to materially affect conclusions; (5) clinically meaningful outcome measures reported; (6) data available for analysis according to the random allocation; (7) missing data insufficient to materially affect the conclusions.

Data collection and analysis

A strategy has been developed to deal with the large volume and complexity of trial data relating to labour induction. This involves a two-stage method of data extraction. The initial data extraction is done centrally, and incorporated into a series of primary reviews arranged by methods of induction of labour, following a standardised methodology. The data will then be extracted from the primary reviews into a series of secondary reviews, arranged by category of woman. To avoid duplication of data in the primary reviews, the labour induction methods have been listed in a specific order, from one to 25. Each primary review includes comparisons between one of the methods (from two to 25) with only those methods above it on the list.

Main results

No trials met the inclusion criteria for the systematic review.

Reviewer's conclusions

There is a need for a well designed randomised controlled trial to evaluate the role of acupuncture to induce labour.

Plain language summary


Acupuncture may help to induce labour but more research is needed

Induction of labour (getting labour started artificially) is common when the pregnancy is posing a greater risk to the pregnant woman or her unborn child. Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into specific energy points of the body has been used help induce labour and reduce labour pains. The review found no trials of sufficient quality to give any information about whether acupuncture is effective and safe in inducing labour. More research is needed.