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Twenty years ago the treatment principle I would use to induce labour was straightforward – establish contractions. I used strong reducing treatment at acupuncture points indicated for delayed labour, with little underlying diagnostic effort required. The results of this approach were often disappointing; whilst women gave positive feedback, often convinced that the treatment had been successful due to the contractions following treatment, clinical follow up was less encouraging. Their resulting labours were not always efficient and frequently involved medical procedures due to failure to progress, foetal distress or “stuck” babies. There was thus little advantage for these women in using acupuncture. They may have avoided a medical induction but the resulting labours were not the “natural” births they were planning. My subsequent experience of working with midwives led to a more satisfying approach, one that used acupuncture to correct possible problems, with a focus on promoting an efficient labour rather than merely hastening the onset of contractions. This article discusses this approach, and includes four aspects that I now consider crucial for achieving an optimal outcome – that of natural physiological labour. The latest research on using acupuncture for induction is also discussed, including the implications this has for clinical practice.
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