Acupuncture treatment in the final weeks of pregnancy has been claimed to shorten the duration of labor in primiparous women. In the present study, the length of the various phases of labor was calculated for 56 primiparous women who were repeatedly treated with manual acupuncture during the month prior to parturition. In vaginally delivering women, the average lengths of the latent and active phase and the second stage of labor were 4.1, 3.4 and 1.4 h, respectively. In a nontreated control group of 112 primiparous women, the corresponding durations were 4.4, 3.5 and 1.1 h. Acupuncture treatment before delivery did not shorten the delivery time. Instead, acupuncture seemed to lengthen pregnancy and to prolong labor, for there was a positive correlation between the number of acupuncture treatments given and the length of gestation, second-stage labor and total delivery time. Based on the results of the present study, it appears possible that the effect of acupuncture is the opposite to that suggested by others, i.e. it lengthens the pregnancy as well as delivery time and does not reduce the duration of labor.

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