Acupuncture for labour induction

Sometimes labour can be induced at certain circumstances: for example, if your baby is overdue or there's any sort of risk to you or your baby's health. An induced labour is one that's started artificially. It's fairly common. Every year, 1 in 5 labours are induced in the UK. Some research data demonstrate that elective labour induction decreases the rate of still-birth without increasing the caesarean section rate. The induction is generally performed between 41 and 42 weeks according to the guidelines.

Pharmacological labour induction is obtained through intracervical/vaginal prostaglandins and/or oxytocin infusion, both related to foetal and maternal side effects. In particular, oxytocin infusion increases the rate of caesarean section and operative delivery, while vaginal prostaglandin administration increases the risk of an excessive uterine activity associated with foetal distress without affecting caesarean section and operative delivery rate.

Acupuncture is used for labour induction for women who like to avoid medical and surgical procedures. A recent study with 375 cases just published has shown that the women with acupuncture treatment experienced a higher rate of spontaneous onset of delivery compared to those without acupuncture. Prolonged pregnancy was lower in women receiving acupuncture compared to those without acupuncture. The oxytocin infusion rate was lower in the acupuncture group than in the control group. The rate of operative delivery is lower in women treated with acupuncture compared to controls. The possible mechanism is that acupuncture stimulates central oxytocin release and parasympathetic uterine activity increasing contractility; Acupuncture is softening the cervix and inducing uterine contractions to initial labour process.

References

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]

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