The sharp end of medical practice: the use of acupuncture in obstetrics and gynecology



Acupuncture has become more accessible and acceptable for many pregnant women. The more women choose this alternative, the more important is the question, how to advise patients about complementary medicine and how to evaluate its effects. Since negative prejudice is common, scientific evaluation of acupuncture is demanded. The aim of our department is to evaluate the clinical, biochemical and morphological effects of acupuncture in the field of obstetrics. Acupuncture has recently enjoyed a rapidly increasing popularity in Austria as a complementary treatment in prenatal care. We found a positive effect of acupuncture starting four weeks before term on the duration of labour by shortening the first stage1. This was associated with significantly elevated serum levels of PGE22. Acupuncture significantly reduced the need for oxytocin. Ultrasound examination revealed significant shorter cervical length after acupuncture at term, compared with controls. Acupuncture reduces the time interval between the estimated date of confinement and the actual date of delivery3. In a recent trial, we found that acupuncture favourably influences umbilical artery waveforms in uncomplicated pregnant women at term4. In our opinion, acupuncture does not mean the ‘sharp end of medical practice’; on the contrary, acupuncture in obstetrics is drug-free, clinically effective and cost-effective.