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New doubt on needle treatment for labour

Although acupuncture is promoted as a way to induce labour in women who go past their due date, a Danish study had added to evidence casting doubt on its usefulness.

Researchers from Aarhus University Hospital found among 125 pregnant women who were past their due dates, those who randomly had two acupuncture sessions were no more likely to go into labour over the next 24 hours.

Of those women, 12pc went into labour, versus 14pc of those who were randomly assigned to have a "sham" version of acupuncture and there no differences in other outcomes such as dilation of the cervix or the length of time it took to deliver.

"The results are very clear," said researcher Dr Niels Uldbjerg, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology. "Acupuncture as used in this trial does not induce labour in post-term pregnant women."


However, Uldbjerg and his colleagues acknowledged a "more intensive" course of acupuncture might have produced different results. Many acupuncturists say the therapy is different for each person.

But the findings, reported in the obstetrics journal BJOG, add to evidence that acupuncture may not be an effective way to induce labour in "post- term" pregnancies -- those that go beyond 41 weeks.

About five to 10pc of pregnant women have a post-term pregnancy, a delay that raises the risk of complications during labour. Because of this, doctors routinely induce labour when a pregnancy lasts beyond 41 weeks.