Acupressure, complementary therapies and pain management in labour: results of a randomised controlled trial.

I’ve been meaning to share this research for months and months.

Published in 2016, this Australian study Complementary therapies for labour and birth study: a randomised controlled trial of antenatal integrative medicine for pain management in labour has informed my work with expectant couples since then.

This study of 176 women with low-risk pregnancies in 2 public hospital-based antenatal clinics used a protocol based on She Births and acupressure for labour and birth.

Participants were randomly assigned to two groups at 24-36 weeks of pregnancy.

One group received usual antenatal care (standard care) alone, and the other group (the study group) received a 2-day antenatal education program which included the complementary therapies protocol plus standard care.

The study “incorporated 6 evidence-based complementary medicine techniques: acupressure, visualisation and relaxation, breathing, massage, yoga techniques, and facilitated partner support”.

The primary conclusion: “The Complementary Therapies for Labour and Birth study protocol significantly reduced epidural use and caesarian section.”

Other findings from the study – secondary clinical outcomes – were that: “women in the study group were more likely to experience normal vaginal birth, and were less likely to have medical or surgical augmentation during labour, birth by CS, or any perineal trauma…we also found a reduced length of second stage of labour…and…babies of women in the study group were also less likely to require resuscitation by suction or with bag and mask.” 

What does all this mean for women and couples who are reading this?

Firstly, this post is not a “try this at home” recommendation. How and where you plan to give birth is a decision you need to make with your midwifery and obstetric team. There will be many factors which they’ll take into account as they guide and advise you along the way. If you’re on track for an uncomplicated, low risk birth, you might like to share and discuss the study with them.

If you get the “all clear” and want to try acupressure as part of your birth plan, be sure you’re guided by an appropriately qualified and experienced Registered Acupuncturist who is familiar with the Betts acupressure protocol.

I am one of these acupuncturists, based in Brisbane, Australia.

You can find me here.

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