BACKGROUND There are few studies on acupuncture in childbirth despite the generally established analgesic effect of acupuncture treatment. METHODS The analgesic effect of acupuncture during childbirth was assessed by comparing the need for other pain treatments (epidural analgesia using bupivacaine, pudendal nerve block, intramuscular meperidine, nitrous oxide/oxygen, intracutaneous sterile water injections) in 90 women given acupuncture (acupuncture group) with that in 90 women not given acupuncture (control group). RESULTS 52 women (58%) in the acupuncture group and 13 (14%) in the control group managed their deliveries without further pain treatment (p < 0.001). The groups were similar with respect to age, pariety, duration of delivery, use of oxytocine and incidence of Caesarean section. Acupuncture treatment was found to have no major side effects, and 85 women (94%) given acupuncture reported that they would reconsider acupuncture in future deliveries. CONCLUSION Acupuncture reduces the need for other methods of analgesia in childbirth.