Acupuncture/ pressurePregnancy

Acupuncture vs water in injections to treat labor pains

“Women given sterile water injection have less pain during labor compared to women given acupuncture,” according to researchers at the University of Skövde in Sweden.

First, the details.

  • 128 pregnant women at term were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture or sterile water injections.
  • The objective was to compare the differences between pre-treatment pain levels and maximum pain in the 2 groups.

And, the results.

  • Sterile water injections gave significantly greater pain relief during childbirth compared to acupuncture.
  • Women in the sterile water group had significantly greater relaxation compared to acupuncture.
  • The women’s assessment also favored sterile water injections.
  • There were no significant differences between treatments regarding the need for additional pain relief after treatment.

The bottom line?
According to a recent review of CAM options for pain relief during labor, there is little research to support acupuncture. “To achieve a good analgesic effect during labor, a relatively long induction period may be required. It is difficult for a woman in labor to remain still for 15 to 30 minutes, and some patients felt discomfort because of the restrictions in movement.”

By comparison, “Water injections are associated with a sharp injection pain that lasts between 20 and 30 seconds, which some women find less acceptable than lower back pain. This method may be an alternative for women who have lower back pain during labor but wish to avoid epidural analgesia,” concluded researchers from the University of Paris.

Epidural anesthesia is the first choice to relieve labor pain, with 85% to 95% of women experiencing complete relief of pain during the two phases of delivery: cervical dilatation and descent of the baby.

More on the CAM options are summarized here.

2/1/08 17:47 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.