This article: describes a study that the authors say shows that acupuncture is of no help in inducing labor. In the study for the “real” acupuncture group they treated the pregnant woman with needling what they called standard points “that were traditionally related to inducing labor”, and did a total of two treatments.

I suppose in some sense of the word this is acupuncture, but it is not Chinese medicine and not how most practitioners would try to induce labor. If I tried to induce labor in the way these researchers did, had no or limited success, and told my colleagues about it, they would look at me strangely and ask, “what did you expect?” They would also wonder if I learned anything at all in acupuncture school.

In Chinese medicine, treatment is individualized to treat the patient’s specific condition. Does the person have a kidney chi deficiency, or a stronger component of liver chi stagnation? The points used will differ according to which of these traditional diagnoses apply. Similarly, some patients may need only one treatment to induce labor, while others may need many more. If I had to pick an average, it would be 4 to 6 treatments – not 2, as the researchers in the study used!

In a narrow sense, the study provides some evidence that the protocol the researchers used is not helpful for inducing labor. However this is not news, as we knew this from centuries of clinical experience. Most reprehensible in my opinion is the reporting, with most reporters leaping to the hasty generalization that “acupuncture” is not helpful for inducing labor. It’s at best very sloppy to equate acupuncture with a simplistic non-traditional needling protocol that ignores Chinese medical theory and centuries of accumulated clinical experience.