J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2006 Aug;19(8):465-70.
A randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for initiation of labor in nulliparous women. Harper TC, Coeytaux RR, Chen W, Campbell K, Kaufman JS, Moise KJ, Thorp JM. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of North Carolina, NC, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the utility of outpatient acupuncture for labor stimulation. METHODS: Nulliparous women at 39 4/7 weeks or greater with a singleton gestation and Bishop score of less than 7 were randomized to usual medical care (control group) versus usual care and three outpatient acupuncture treatments (acupuncture group). Each treatment consisted of eight needles applied to bilateral points LI4, SP6, UB31, and UB32. The primary outcome was time elapsed from the time of randomization to delivery. Secondary outcomes included rates of cesarean section and induction of labor. Medical records were abstracted for maternal demographic, medical, and delivery outcome data. A priori sample size calculation revealed that 56 women were required to detect a 72-hour difference in delivery time with a power of 83% and an alpha of 0.05. Student's t-test, Chi-square, and Kaplan-Meier statistics were used to compare groups. RESULTS: Fifty-six women were randomized and completed the study procedures. Race, age, gestational age, and cervical Bishop score were similar in both groups. Mean time to delivery occurred 21 hours sooner in the acupuncture group, but this difference did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.36). Compared to controls, women in the acupuncture group tended to be more likely to labor spontaneously (70% vs. 50%, p = 0.12) and less likely to deliver by cesarean section (39% vs. 17%, p = 0.07). Of women who were not induced, those in the acupuncture group were more likely to be delivered than the controls at any point after enrollment (p = 0.05). CONCLUSION: Acupuncture is well tolerated among term nulliparous women and holds promise in reducing interventions that occur in post-term pregnancies.

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2006;85(11):1348-53.

Acupuncture administered after spontaneous rupture of membranes at term significantly reduces the length of birth and use of oxytocin. A randomized controlled trial.
Gaudernack LC, Forbord S, Hole E.
Kvinneklinikken, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.

BACKGROUND: The objective was to investigate whether acupuncture could be a reasonable option for augmentation in labor after spontaneous rupture of membranes at term and to look for possible effects on the progress of labor. METHODS: In a randomized controlled trial 100 healthy parturients, with spontaneous rupture of membranes at term, were assigned to receive either acupuncture or no acupuncture. The main response variables were the duration of active labor, the amount of oxytocin given, and number of inductions. RESULTS: Duration of labor was significantly reduced (mean difference 1.7 h, p=0.03) and there was significant reduction in the need for oxytocin infusion to augment labor in the study group compared to the control group (odds ratio 2.0, p=0.018). We also discovered that the participants in the acupuncture group who needed labor induction had a significantly shorter duration of active phase than the ones induced in the control group (mean difference 3.6 h, p=0.002). These findings remained significant also when multiple regression was performed, controlling for potentially confounding factors like parity, epidural analgesia, and birth weight. CONCLUSION: Acupuncture may be a good alternative or complement to pharmacological methods in the effort to facilitate birth and provide normal delivery for women with prelabor rupture of membranes.

PMID: 17091416 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2001 Dec 17;113(23-24):942-6.
Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labor at term--a randomized controlled trial.
Rabl M, Ahner R, Bitschnau M, Zeisler H, Husslein P.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Vienna, Austria.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate whether acupuncture at term can influence cervical ripening, induce labor and thus reduce the need for postdates induction. METHODS: On the estimated date of confinement (EDC) women were prospectively randomized to an acupuncture group (AG) or a control group (CG). Data of 45 women were evaluated (AG, n = 25; CG, n = 20). Inclusion criteria were as follows: confirmed EDC, uncomplicated course of pregnancy, singleton pregnancy in cephalic presentation. Exclusion criteria were as follows: cervical dilation > 3 cm, active labor, premature rupture of membranes, previous cesarean section, pathologies in mother or fetus. Women were examined at 2-day intervals. The cervical length was measured with vaginal ultrasonography, cervical mucus was obtained for a fetal Fibronectin test and the cervical status was assessed according to the Bishop score. In the AG, the points Hegu (Large Intestine 4) and Sanyinjiao (Spleen 6) were pierced on both sides every second day. If women were not delivered 10 days after EDC, labor was induced by administering vaginal prostaglandin tablets. RESULTS: The cervical length in the AG was shorter than that in the CG on day 6 and day 8 after EDC (P = 0.04 for both). In the AG the time period from the first positive Fibronectin test to delivery was 2.3 days, while that in the CG was 4.2 days (P = 0.08). The time period from EDC to delivery was on average 5.0 days in the AG and 7.9 days in the CG (P = 0.03). Labor was induced in 20% of women in the AG (n = 5) and in 35% in the CG (n = 7) (P = 0.3). Overall duration of labor, and first and second stage of labor were not different in the two groups. In 56% of women who underwent acupuncture (n = 14) and in 65% of controls (n = 13), Oxytocin was used to augment labor. (P = 0.54). CONCLUSION: Acupuncture at points LI4 and SP 6 supports cervical ripening at term and can shorten the time interval between the EDC and the actual time of delivery.

PMID: 11802511 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Obstet Gynecol. 1989 Feb;73(2):286-90.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation at acupuncture points in the induction of uterine contractions.
Dunn PA, Rogers D, Halford K.
Physiotherapy Department, Moorabbin Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.

The effectiveness of transcutaneous electrical stimulation at acupuncture points for increasing uterine contractions in 20 post-dates pregnant women was assessed in a controlled study. Subjects were randomly assigned to either a treatment condition, consisting of the application via surface electrodes of a 30-Hz current to the points "spleen 6" (lower leg) and "liver 3" (foot), or a placebo condition, in which the equipment was attached but not activated. The frequency and strength of uterine contractions were monitored for 1 hour prior to stimulation and then for the final 2 hours of a 4-hour test period. A significant increase in frequency and strength of uterine contractions was found in the electrically stimulated women compared with the placebo-group women. The possible physiologic mechanisms underlying this effect, and its implication for labor induction, are discussed.

PMID: 2783481 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]