Acupuncture and/or sweeping of the fetal membranes before induction of labor: a prospective, randomized, controlled trial

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To evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture, and sweeping of the fetal membranes, as methods for induction of labor.


Four hundred and seven pregnant women with normal singleton pregnancies and cephalic presentations were randomized at three delivery wards in Denmark at day 290 of gestation into groups of acupuncture, sweeping, acupuncture and sweeping and controls. The primary objective was to compare the proportion of women going into labor before induction of labor at 294 days in the four groups. The secondary objective was to compare the combined groups: with and without acupuncture, and with and without sweeping of the fetal membranes. The midwives, completing the forms for the trial at labor or induction, were blinded to group assessments.


Four hundred and seventeen women were randomized. Ten were excluded after randomization. One hundred and four women were randomized to acupuncture, 103 to sweeping of the membranes, 100 to both acupuncture and sweeping, and 100 were randomized to the control group. Comparison of the four groups demonstrated no significant difference in the number of women achieving spontaneous labor before planned induction. No difference was demonstrated by comparing the combined groups treated with acupuncture with the groups not treated with acupuncture (P=0.76). However, significantly more women went into labor before planned induction (P=0.02) in the combined groups receiving sweeping, compared with the groups not treated with sweeping.


Acupuncture at 41+ weeks of gestation did not reduce the need for induction. The study was of a sufficient size to demonstrate, in parallel, that sweeping of the fetal membranes significantly reduced the need of induction, sparing about 15% for formal induction of labor.

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