Background: There is worldwide concern with increasing rates of pharmacologically induced labour and operative birth. Many women would like to avoid medical or surgical interventions in childbirth; a desire that may contribute towards the popularity of complementary and alternative medicine/therapies.
Method: This systematic review examines the effects of acupressure on labour onset and duration of labour. We searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, AMED, Cochrane Collaboration, and Science Direct from 1999 to 2013 for published randomised controlled trials and controlled trials comparing acupressure with placebo and no treatment. Studies recruited primiparous and/or multiparous women with either spontaneous or induced onset of labour. The outcome measures were labour onset and duration of all stages of labour.
Findings: Seven trials with data reporting on 748 women using different acupressure points and methods of administration were included in the review. One study examined the initiation of labour and six studies examined labour duration and/or pain levels. The two most studied acupoints were Sanyinjiao/Spleen 6 and Hegu/Large Intestine 4. Results suggest acupressure may reduce the length of labour particularly in the first stage.
Conclusion: Further research is required on whether acupressure can shorten labour duration, augment prolonged labour or initiate onset of labour by stimulating uterine contractions. Clinical trials should report the basis for acupressure treatment described in the STRICTA (minus needling) and CONSORT non-pharmaceutical guidelines.
Keywords: Acupoints; Acupressure; Labour duration; Labour initiation; Labour onset; Labour pain; Systematic review.
Copyright © 2015 Australian College of Midwives. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.