Complementary therapy and alternative medicine: effects on induction of labour and pregnancy outcome in low risk post-dates women

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Background: Complementary therapy and Alternative medicine (CAM) is used worldwide for many ailments and is a popular option amongst pregnant women for general wellbeing and managing symptoms. Many studies investigating the use of CAM in the antenatal and intrapartum period have been conducted however there is a lack of evidence regarding its effects on induction of labour and delivery. We established a post-dates clinic comprising of an antenatal check and CAM for low risk pregnant women to determine the impact of CAM on these outcomes. Methods: This was a cohort study with convenience sampling. A total of 1044 women were included. 397 received a combination of three CAM techniques (acupressure, reflexology and aromatherapy) and 647 women received standard clinical practice. The primary outcome was rate of induction of labour and secondary outcomes such as rates for epidural, length of labour, oxytocin use for induction or augmentation of labour, mode of delivery, blood loss during delivery, postpartum haemorrhage, significant perineal trauma, shoulder dystocia and admission of the baby to a special care unit were analysed. Findings: CAM did not have an effect on rates of induction of labour in nulliparous or multiparous women attending the post-dates clinic. However, we noted that nulliparous women who received CAM had shorter labours (mean 8.4 vs 10 h, p = 0.0002), less oxytocin augmentation (23% vs 35%, p = 0.0002), lower epidural rates (41% vs 50.5%, p = 0.02) and reduced blood loss regardless of mode of delivery (mean reduction 82ml, p = 0.03; 95%CI = -159 to -5). There were no significant differences in secondary outcomes when CAM was used in multiparous women apart from a 5.3 times increased risk of significant perineal trauma (6% vs 2%, p = 0.004) and those who had their labours induced after CAM had a higher risk of requiring an emergency caesarean section (5% vs 1%, p = 0.012). There was no difference on shoulder dystocia and neonatal admissions rates with CAM. Conclusion: There is no reduction in induction of labour rates with the use of CAM. The other effects of CAM on labour and delivery outcomes are varied and potentially only beneficial in a selected group of women. Further research must be carried out before making any clear recommendations on its use.




Koh, L. M., Percival, B., Pauley, T., & Pathak, S. (2019). Complementary therapy and alternative medicine: effects on induction of labour and pregnancy outcome in low risk post-dates women. Heliyon, 5(11).

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