Scientific Review: The role of traditional complementary physical interventions in obstetrics

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Because of the fear of the use of pharmacological agents, many pregnant women are opting to use alternative management modalities either as primary management or to compliment standard contemporary medical practices. The traditional complementary physical interventions of acupuncture, acupressure, and electrostimulation have a long tradition of use in traditional Chinese medical practice and are advocated for the management of antenatal conditions such as spontaneous miscarriages, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and urinary problems. They have also been advocated as useful to help the process of labour in promoting a cephalic delivery, induction/augmentation of labour and pain relief. Postpartum these modalities have been said to help the secretion and production of milk. While a number of studies, some randomized controlled, have suggested a potential role for these traditional complementary physical interventions, systematic reviews have generally failed to show a definite conclusive beneficial role and all reviews generally suggest the need for further controlled research in the field. Since no adverse effects appear to be associated with the use of these modalities in pregnancy, such modalities of management can be considered but only as an adjuvant to standard pharmacological management after a full clinical assessment has ruled out underlying pathology.