Acupuncture and Acupressure in Labor

J Midwifery Womens Health. 2017 Jan;62(1):12-28. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12545. Epub 2016 Dec 21.


Acupuncture and acupressure, 2 modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine, are based on reducing pain and symptoms of disease through balancing yin and yang. Acupuncture and acupressure have been used in China for reduction of labor pain, labor augmentation, and other intrapartum indications for more than 2 millennia. This article presents a review of the current literature that has addressed the effects of acupuncture and acupressure on intrapartum events. Studies of acupuncture have demonstrated that acupuncture may reduce labor pain, the use of pharmacologic agents, the use of forceps and vacuum-assisted births, and the length of labor. Studies that examined the effect of acupuncture on labor that is induced or augmented for premature rupture of membranes have found that acupuncture may increase the degree of cervical ripening but does not reduce the amount of oxytocin or epidural analgesia administration, nor does it shorten length of induced labor. Acupressure may reduce labor pain and labor duration, but acupressure has not been found to increase cervical ripening or induce labor. There are insufficient studies about acupuncture and acupressure and their effects on labor at this time, and there is need for further research. Areas of uncertainty include efficacy, optimal point selection, best techniques, and length of time for point stimulation.

Keywords: Shiatsu; TCM; Traditional Chinese Medicine; Traditional Japanese Massage; acupressure; acupuncture; labor; labor augmentation; pain; persistent cervical lip.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupressure*
  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Cervical Ripening
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor Pain / therapy
  • Labor, Obstetric*
  • Perinatal Care / methods*
  • Pregnancy