Allina Health researchers present two studies aimed at improving care during pregnancy and childbirth

MINNEAPOLIS (June 1, 2023) — Allina Health researchers presented findings from two obstetric studies at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. These studies evaluated unique Allina Health programs. The first examined acupuncture and acupressure as integrative treatments in addition to usual care for patients hospitalized for management severe preeclampsia. The second evaluated the outpatient cervical ripening pilot program initiated at Allina Health Abbott Northwestern and United hospitals. 

Acupuncture and acupressure for certain preeclampsia patients
Allina Health researchers studied hospitalized patients with severe preeclampsia and found, on average, their pregnancy duration increased by 1.87 days when they received acupuncture and/or acupressure. The findings are note-worthy because preeclampsia, a serious condition that causes high blood pressure and other pregnancy complications, is a leading cause of preterm delivery, severe maternal morbidity and mortality. Acupuncture and acupressure treatments may influence blood pressure, whether administered alone or with blood pressure medications. 

“When women are diagnosed with preeclampsia very early in pregnancy, we have to walk a tightrope to keep them pregnant as long as we safely can without putting the mother or baby at risk from worsening preeclampsia,” said Laura Colicchia, MD, a perinatologist with Minnesota Perinatal Physicians who sees patients with high-risk pregnancies at Allina Health. “This research suggests that acupuncture or acupressure should be part of our toolkit to decrease preterm delivery and improve outcomes for women with preterm preeclampsia." 

“At Allina Health’s Penny George Institute of Health and Healing we understand the importance of focusing on your whole being, mind, body and spirit,” said Zena Kocher, Supervisor Acupuncturist. “We are proud to offer integrative medicine to support patients, including those with high-risk pregnancies, to stay pregnant longer, optimizing outcomes as well as creating more comfort and ease.”  

Outpatient cervical ripening pilot program
In March 2020, Allina Health began offering the option of outpatient cervical ripening, one day prior to scheduled inpatient labor induction, at two Allina Health hospitals. This offering came after ACOG determined it is reasonable for obstetric care providers to offer an induction of labor to low-risk patients as soon as 39 weeks gestation which increased the desire for this delivery option. Cervical ripening, a process that prepares the cervix for labor, is commonly utilized for pregnant patients the day prior to an induction of labor. Once the cervix is more favorable, or ripe, the induction of labor process may be more successful. 

Although cervical ripening can be carried out using pharmacological and/or mechanical device methods, this study was the first to examine use of two mechanical devices in the outpatient setting (Dilapan-S and Foley balloon). Researchers found outpatient cervical ripening with these devices is a safe alternative to inpatient cervical ripening for low-risk patients and helped to improve cervical readiness on admission, while maintaining low complications. There were no significant differences observed by the type of device used.

“We understand people may want the option to be at home during the process of cervical ripening, and thus avoid a lengthy time in the hospital, whenever they safely can. The option of outpatient cervical ripening appeals to many low-risk patients and may contribute to a better overall care experience. This outpatient program also keeps more inpatient hospital beds open for people that need a higher level of care,” said Kelly Drake, MSN, Director of Patient Care at The Mother Baby Center at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. “Every pregnancy journey is different and at Allina Health, we strive to offer options so our patients experience expert care, personalized to their needs.”  

Patients responded positively to the program. Several said the device was comfortable. One patient said, “I liked sleeping in my own bed and being home with my other kids.”

About Allina Health

Allina Health is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of illness and enhancing the greater health of individuals, families and communities throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. A nonprofit health care system, Allina Health cares for patients from beginning to end-of-life through its 90+ clinics, 12 hospital campuses, 14 retail pharmacies, and many specialty care centers and specialty medical services, home care, and emergency medical transportation services. Learn more at and join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.