Background: This is one of a series of reviews of methods of cervical ripening and labour induction using standardised methodology. The use of complementary therapies is increasing and some women look to complementary therapies during pregnancy and childbirth to be used alongside conventional medical practice. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points of the body. The limited observational studies to date suggest acupuncture for induction of labour appears safe, has no known teratogenic effects, and may be effective. The evidence regarding the clinical effectiveness of this technique is limited.
Objectives: To determine the effects of acupuncture for third trimester cervical ripening or induction of labour.
Search strategy: The Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group trials register (February 2003), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2003), PubMed (1966 to present), CISCOM (1960 to present), EMBASE (1980 to present) and bibliographies of relevant papers.
Selection criteria: Clinical trials comparing acupuncture used for third trimester cervical ripening or labour induction with placebo/no treatment or other methods listed above it on a predefined list of labour induction methods.
Data collection and analysis: A strategy was developed to deal with the large volume and complexity of trial data relating to labour induction. This involved a two-stage method of data extraction.
Main results: One trial of 56 women was included in the review. Data were not in a form that could be included in the meta-analysis.
Reviewer's conclusions: There is a need for well-designed randomised controlled trials to evaluate the role of acupuncture to induce labour and for trials to assess clinically meaningful outcomes.