Objective: The objective of this study is to review the existing scientific evidence on the potential role of acupuncture on induction of labor during pregnancy.
Design: The Medline, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, AMED (Allied and Complementary Medicine), and NCCAM (The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) databases were searched to identify relevant monographs from 1970 to 2008.
Inclusion criteria: These criteria included all available human acupuncture studies on pregnant women carrying a viable fetus due for third trimester induction of labor.
Exclusion criteria: These criteria included studies not meeting the inclusion criteria, in languages other than English, or animal studies.
Results: Ten (10) studies on labor induction were identified. The duration of labor as a result of acupuncture treatment ranged from 10 hours 20 minutes to 29.1 hours. All of the studies demonstrated labor induction by acupuncture treatment. However, because two randomized controlled trials reported that there was no statistically significant effect of acupuncture, these results are more suggestive than definitive. Furthermore, although the relationship between cervical ripening and interleukin-8 (IL-8), prostaglandin F(2alpha) (PGF(2alpha)), and beta-endorphin is well documented in the literature, there is no evidence to suggest that acupuncture alters these mediators. Serum levels of IL8, beta-endorphin, and PGF(2alpha) were not found to be significantly influenced by acupuncture.
Conclusions: Although the definitive role of acupuncture in inducing labor is still yet to be established, the existing studies suggest that acupuncture may be beneficial in labor induction. Further randomized clinical trials are needed to investigate this further.