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Hypnosis and Acupuncture Show Promise for Labor Pain

A review of non-drug pain relief therapies suggests that hypnosis and acupuncture may ease labor pain.

"There is too little research to assess how effective many complementary therapies will be with pain management //in labor," said lead study author Caroline Smith. Further research is needed, she said, but "the results concerning acupuncture and hypnosis are encouraging."

In addition to hypnosis and acupuncture, the review examined the effects of massage, relaxation, aromatherapy, acupressure and white noise on pain relief. But the review did not turn up enough evidence to determine if any of the other therapies bring women significant comfort.

The meta-analysis compiles data from 14 studies that included more than 1,400 women. Five studies examined hypnosis, while three studies gauged acupuncture’s effect on pain relief.

"More robust research and more research trials have been undertaken for these two therapies versus the other treatments," said Smith, a research fellow at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

Hypnosis reduces the need for drug pain relief in labor, lessens the need for medications that augment labor and increases the number of spontaneous vaginal births, according to the available data. The women treated with acupuncture reported more satisfaction with their labor pain management versus the mothers who did not receive that treatment, the review found.

Before these findings can be confidently put into practice, Smith said, she’d like to see better-designed trials on hypnosis and acupuncture.

Other gauges of the
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