Acupuncture or acupressure for pain management in labour

Evidence Summaries

Level of Evidence = D
Acupuncture might possibly have some effect for reducing pain and use of pharmacological management compared to usual care, however the evidence is limited.

Comment: The quality of evidence is downgraded by study limitations (selective reporting and no blinding, and unclear allocation concealment), by inconsistency (unexplained variability in results).

A Cochrane review 1 included 28 studies with a total of 3,960 subjects. 13 trials reported on acupuncture and 15 trials reported on acupressure. There was no significant difference in pain intensity with acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture (mean difference [MD] -4.42, 95% CI -12.94 to 4.09, 2 trials,n= 325) or standard care (SMD -1.31, 95% CI -2.14 to -0.49, 4 trials, n=495, I² = 93%). It was uncertain if acupressure reduced pain intensity compared with sham control (MD -1.93, 95% CI -3.31 to -0.55, 6 trials, n=472, very low quality) or usual care (SMD -1.07, 95% CI -1.45 to -0.69, 8 trials, n=620, very low quality).


1. Smith CA, Collins CT, Levett KM et al. Acupuncture or acupressure for pain management during labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2020;(2):CD009232.  [PMID:32032444]

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