Acupuncture to help labour when your waters have broken

Acupuncture to help labour when your waters have broken


“Acupuncture is a method with few side effects that supports the natural birthing process”

“The main finding of this study is that acupuncture treatment resulted in a significantly shorter active phase of labor”

When your waters break naturally, labour doesn’t always follow.

Researchers in Norway have found that acupuncture may help women whose waters have broken naturally:

  • It led to shorter labour duration
  • Women who needed induction needed less oxytocin
  • Active labour was 50% shorter in duration for women who had acupuncture and were induced


The study in detail

In Australia, the recommendation is usually to wait for up to 48 hours, and then induce labour if it hasn’t started naturally. In the hospital in this Norwegian study, the recommendation is 24 hours and then induction.

The researchers asked women to join the study when they came to the hospital after their waters had broken. They split the women into two groups – an acupuncture group and a control group.

Here’s what they found:

  •  “Acupuncture shortened the time from PROM [premature rupture of membranes] to delivery”*
  •  “Women who received acupuncture during the first 24 h after PROM had a significantly shorter duration of labor
  • “The use of acupuncture leads to a significant reduction in the need of oxytocin“**
  • “Those in the acupuncture group who had an induction got through the active phase of birth in half the time compared to those who were induced in the control group”
  • No adverse effects of acupuncture were found in relation to delivery outcome”


“The other main findings in our study were that women in the acupuncture group needed significantly less oxytocin to stimulate contractions during labor… and that the induced women in the study group got through the active phase of labor in half the time compared to those who were induced in the control group”

The study authors discuss the reasons why acupuncture may help to promote efficient labour after breaking of waters:

  • Acupuncture has been shown to help ripen the cervix when given as a prenatal treatment (usually weekly for a few weeks)
  • Acupuncture can raise a mother’s level of prostaglandins – hormones involved with cervix ripening
  • Previous studies have shown that acupuncture can shorten the active phase of labour
  • Other researchers have found that acupuncture given on the due date (and every second day after) can shorten the time until delivery
  • Previous researchers who found acupuncture led to a shorter active phase of labour suggest that it may enhance natural oxytocin in the mother, and this fits with the current study that found women in the acupuncture group needed less oxytocin if they were induced


“Other randomized trials have already shown that acupuncture results in a significant reduction of labor pain… and WHO [World Health Organisation] mentions acupuncture as a nonpharmacological method to use during labor.”


“Ideally, acupuncture treatment should be offered to all women with PROM, and other pregnant women who wish to use this method, in order to facilitate their birth and keep it normal.”


* All bold text in quotes is added
** Oxytocin is the drug given to stimulate contractions during induction

Gaudernack LC, Forbord S, Hole E. Acupuncture administered after spontaneous rupture of membranes at term significantly reduces the length of birth and use of oxytocin. A randomized controlled trial. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica. 2006;85(11):1348-1353. doi:10.1080/00016340600935839