Acupuncture for labor pain management: A systematic review

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Nov;191(5):1573-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2004.05.027.


Acupuncture is widely used to alleviate symptoms in a variety of painful conditions. In obstetrics and gynecology, acupuncture has also been applied to a range of conditions including labor pain. This systematic review aims to critically evaluate the evidence on analgesic effect of acupuncture during labor. Computerized literature searches of 7 databases were performed for randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of acupuncture involving needle insertion for pain during labor. Three RCTs were identified and their methodologic quality was generally good. Two RCTs compared adjunctive acupuncture with usual care only and reported a reduction of meperidine and/or epidural analgesia. One placebo acupuncture controlled trial showed a statistically significant difference in both subjective and objective outcome measures of pain. No adverse events were reported in any of the trials. It is concluded that the evidence for acupuncture as an adjunct to conventional pain control during labor is promising but, because of the paucity of trial data, not convincing. Further research is warranted to clearly define its place in labor pain management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor Pain / therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic