top of page

Overdue Pregnancy: Acupuncture for Labour Induction

Sometimes, the process of labor needs to be initiated artificially, especially if a pregnancy has exceeded its expected duration or if there are potential risks to the health of both the mother and the baby. Induced labor, a commonly performed procedure, is used in various circumstances. In the United Kingdom alone, approximately 1 in 5 labors are induced each year. Research data suggests that elective labor induction can reduce the risk of stillbirth without significantly increasing the rate of caesarean sections. Generally, induction is performed between 41 and 42 weeks, following established guidelines.

Acupuncture is recognized as a method for labor induction by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is an alternative for women who wish to avoid medical or surgical interventions during childbirth. A recent study involving 375 cases has demonstrated that women receiving acupuncture treatment had a higher rate of spontaneous onset of delivery compared to those without acupuncture. Additionally, the incidence of prolonged pregnancy was lower among women who received acupuncture. The rate of oxytocin infusion, a hormone that stimulates contractions, was lower in the acupuncture group compared to the control group. Moreover, the rate of operative delivery was lower in women who underwent acupuncture compared to the control group. The possible mechanism behind these effects is that acupuncture stimulates the release of oxytocin in the central nervous system, thereby increasing uterine contractions through parasympathetic activity. Acupuncture also softens the cervix, initiating the labor process.

A study conducted in China analyzed data from 2002 to 2008, reviewing sixty-five papers. The results indicated that acupuncture is effective in facilitating contractions, shortening the birth process, and reducing labor pain. Another study revealed that the absence of obstetric complications, a longer duration of labor, and higher patient satisfaction were observed among those in the acupuncture group. Additionally, there was a significantly higher frequency of vaginal deliveries with no occurrence of obstetric complications. In another study conducted in Astria, it was found that the cervical length in the acupuncture group was shorter than that in the control group. This suggests that acupuncture supports cervical ripening at term and can reduce the time interval between the estimated due date and the actual time of delivery.

In conclusion, acupuncture has been recognized by the WHO as a viable option for labor induction. Studies have shown that it can increase the likelihood of spontaneous onset of delivery, reduce the need for interventions such as oxytocin infusion, and lower the rate of operative deliveries. Acupuncture may also facilitate contractions, shorten the birth process, and alleviate labor pain.


Neri I et al. J Acupunct Meridian Stud 2018 Jun 8. pii: S2005-2901(17)30196-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2018.06.001. [Epub ahead of print]

Chen and Zhu Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (2010) 30:877-80

Rabl M et al Wien Klin Wochenschr 92001) 113:942-6

bottom of page