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Hypnosis and Acupuncture Show Promise for Labor Pain

effectiveness of the labor pain-relief therapies included clinical outcomes like the length of labor, the need to use instruments to assist labor and trauma to the perineum.

Seattle-area doula and childbirth educator Penny Simkin — who was not involved in the Cochrane review — said "many of my students choose to use acupuncture, but mostly it’s the ones who give birth outside the hospital."

Women who give birth at home or in a community birth center are more likely to use acupuncture, Simkin said, because acupuncture practitioners rarely have treating privileges at hospitals. That limited access is a barrier to treatment that has worked well for pain management, Simkin said.

"This Cochrane review might lower that barrier a little bit," said Simkin, a faculty member at the Seattle Midwifery School.

A doula provides informational, emotional and physical comfort to women during labor and birth, while a healthcare professional attends to the medical needs of the laboring mother and child. Simkin said a large part of her job is helping women with pain management so they don’t become overwhelmed or panicked.

"When we talk about pain relief, acupuncture can induce a very impressive sense of relaxation," she said. "So I think that it does have a place and I think that it is gaining in respect in leaps and bounds in this country."

During acupuncture, extremely thin needles are inserted into different locations on the body. Some theories on acupuncture suggest that the needles stimulate endorphins to reduce pain; other theories guess that the treatment somehow blocks pain signals from reaching the brain. During hypnosis a patient’s attention is focused narrowly to achieve changes in mood, perception or behavior.

Simkin said she’s not surprised that the best evidence on complementary and alternative therapies was for hypnosis and acupuncture. Those techniques require additional and expensive t
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