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Research

ACUPUNCTURE FOR CHILDBIRTH PAIN

A well conducted randomised controlled trial at a hospital in Sweden. The research found that women who received acupuncture during labour, instead of or in addition to conventional pain relief, were less likely to request epidural pain relief and were more relaxed than women who did not receive acupuncture. Pain intensity was similar in the two groups.

Women were randomised to receive acupuncture treatment during labour or not to receive it. Randomisation was carried out separately for women having their first labour and those who had given birth before. All women in both groups received care by midwives (who were trained in acupuncture for labour pain) and all had access to conventional analgesia methods. The type of conventional analgesia was chosen by the women in the study, assisted by the midwives. The acupuncture treatment was individualised, whereby each midwife chose points suitable for the pain localisation as labour progressed. As a rule, relaxing points were combined with local and distant analgesic points. The acupuncture needles were mostly inserted bilaterally at 45 or 90 degrees, stimulated manually until ‘de qi’ was achieved. The needles were left in situ and removed after one to three hours. It was possible for the women to be mobile.

FINDINGS: The need for epidural analgesia was significantly reduced in the acupuncture group. Regarding other analgesic methods, no differences were seen besides the use of some of the non-pharmacological methods, which were significantly reduced in the acupuncture group.

The acupuncture group had a significantly better degree of relaxation on self-assessment but self-assessments of pain intensity were equal between the two groups.

The authors suggest that acupuncture is a good alternative or complement to those women seeking an alternative to pharmacological analgesia in childbirth. Further trials with larger numbers of patients are required to establish the main effects of acupuncture during labour i.e. analgesic or relaxing.

How acupuncture can ease childbirth pain. (Daily Mail, 26 July 2002) www.library.nhs.uk/integratedSearch/viewResource.aspx?resID=238048

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