Acupuncture or acupressure may relieve pain in labour

Clinical question: 
How effective are acupuncture (needles) and acupressure (fingers and hands) for pain management in labour?
Bottom line: 
Single or limited numbers of trials reported less intense pain, increased satisfaction with pain relief and reduced use of analgesic drugs with acupuncture compared with placebo or usual care. Acupressure also reduced pain intensity. The intervention was administered at term, as individualised treatment (6 trials) or at standardised acupuncture points in the majority of trials; but with wide variation in the mode of stimulation, duration of needling, number of points used, depth of needling and duration of the trial.
There were insufficient data to demonstrate whether acupuncture and acupressure were more effective than a placebo control, or whether there was additional benefit from acupuncture when used in combination with usual care. The risk of bias was high in the majority of trials and recommendations for the practice cannot be made until further high quality research has been undertaken
Many women would like to avoid pharmacological or invasive methods of pain management in labour and this may contribute towards the popularity of complementary methods of pain management such as acupuncture or acupressure.
Review CD#: 
November, 2011
Authored by: 
Brian R McAvoy