The research articles outlined below can be used to promote the use of acupuncture in pregnancy. Some like the articles on pelvic pain, nausea and vomiting and breech presentations have been selected for their publication in medical and midwifery journals readily accessible to medical professionals. Others such as the prebirth and cervical ripening articles are included as they represent the research available to date.
While clinical practice does not always reflect the methods used in research and questions remain over the use of methods such as a placebo in acupuncture, or the use of prescribed points rather than an individual diagnosis, western medical research does offer opportunities to discuss and promote acupuncture to medical professionals and the community. This is especially relevant in the area of obstetrics were safety and evidenced based practice are primary concerns.
A randomised controlled trial into the effects of acupuncture on cervical was published by Rabl 2001 .
The objective was to evaluate whether acupuncture at term can influence cervical ripening and thus reduce the need for postdates induction. On their due dates 45 women were randomized into either an acupuncture group (25) or control group (20).
The women were then examined at two daily intervals for cervical length (measured with vaginal trasonography, cervical mucus and cervical stasis according to Bishops score). The acupuncture group also received acupuncture every two days at the acupuncture points Hegu LI-4 and Sanyinjiao SP-6.
If women had not delivered after 10 days labour was induced by administering vaginal prostaglandin tablets. The time period from the woman’s due date to delivery was on average 5 days in the acupuncture group compared to 7.9 days in the control group.
Labour was induced in 20 % of women in the acupuncture group compared to 35% in the control group.
There were no differences between overall duration of labour and the first and second stage of labour.
Acupuncture at the points Hegu LI-4 and Sanyinjiao SP-6 supports cervical ripening and can shorten the time interval between the woman’s expected date of delivery and the actual time of delivery. Acupuncture comments
Hegu LI-4 and Sanyinjiao SP-6 were used bilaterally. The needles were inserted to achieve de qi and then retained for 20 minutes with no further stimulation.
It was interesting that four women were delivered within 24 hours of having their first acupuncture treatment while no women in the control group delivered within 24 hours of their first examination.
It is also interesting to note that none of the women from the acupuncture group went into labour during treatment or within one hour following treatment, reflecting that it is a practical option for women to receive acupuncture in a private clinical setting.
From a safety perspective there was no difference in the number of women experiencing difficulties during delivery, with 3 women requiring a vacuum extraction and two women requiring a caesarean section from each group.