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Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2008;87(2):171-7. doi: 10.1080/00016340701797799.

Acupuncture versus subcutaneous injections of sterile water as treatment for labour pain.

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School of Life Sciences, University of Skövde, Skövde, Sweden.



Two methods for pain relief and relaxation during labour are sterile water injections and acupuncture. In several studies, sterile water injections have been shown to provide good pain relief, particularly for low back pain during labour. The acupuncture studies for pain relief during labour are not as concordant. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore if there were any differences between acupuncture and sterile water injections regarding pain relief and relaxation during labour.


A randomised controlled trial. Some 128 pregnant women at term were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture (n=62) or sterile water injections (n=66). The primary endpoint was to compare the differences between pre-treatment pain levels and maximum pain in the 2 groups.


The main results of this study were that sterile water injections yielded greater pain relief (p<0.001) during childbirth compared to acupuncture. The secondary outcome showed that women in the sterile water group had a higher degree of relaxation (p<0.001) compared to the acupuncture group. The women's own assessment of the effects also favoured sterile water injections (p<0.001). There were no significant differences regarding requirements for additional pain relief after treatment between the 2 groups.


Women given sterile water injection experience less labour pain compared to women given acupuncture.

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