Only 5% of babies are born on their due dates. The majority of babies are born either a few weeks before their due date or up to a few weeks after (1). So it is okay to cross the 40th week of pregnancy. But if you have gone past the 42-week mark or are having ruptured membranes with no contractions, and wish to avoid a medical induction, then you may want to try some traditional methods. One such popular method is acupressure.
How effective is acupressure to induce labor and does it help labor in any other way? This MomJunction post tells you about some of the acupressure points that have been in use during labor.
What Is Acupressure?
Acupressure is an age-old practice from China. It works by stimulating different points on the body and maintaining the energy flow throughout the body, removing any blockages in the way.
Does Acupressure Help Labor?
Acupressure is thought to stimulate labor and help ease the pain and discomfort. It is believed to initiate contractions and dilate the cervix. It could reduce the labor pain (2) in the initial phase by stimulating the release of endorphins.
However, there is limited evidence on these claims. Multiple trials have shown that there is no effect of acupressure on inducing labor within 24 hours or speeding up the birthing process (3).
Another study has found that acupressure may reduce the length of labor, especially in the first stage (4). Yet another study confirms that acupressure could be a non-pharmacological way to alleviate pain during labor (3).
Most studies agree that there needs to be further research to understand if acupressure can “shorten labor duration, augment prolonged labor or initiate the onset of labor by stimulating uterine contractions” (4). They also agree that there are no negative results on using acupressure.
If you are opting for acupressure, understand that it is a complementary therapy.
When Is It Safe To Use Acupressure During Labor?
According to Dr. Debra Betts, the author of “The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy & Childbirth”, if your midwife or doctor sees the need to medically induce labor, acupressure may be started three days prior to the medical induction. Acupressure is usually used to help with contractions and promote cervical dilation. Dr. Betts says that even if labor does not commence spontaneously, feedback from midwives suggest that a woman’s cervix is more favorable following acupressure and that there is an increased chance of a woman progressing through the induction with minimal intervention.
Acupressure may be effective in the foloowing situations:
- When the due date has passed and the the baby has not yet been born.
- When you are in labor and the contractions are not strong or regular enough to be effective.
- When there is a rupture of membranes and there are no contractions.
There is no evidence on how acupressure could help induce labor, but there are no known negative effects either.
Acupressure Points To Induce Labor
Below we list some of the acupressure points that have been empirically proven to stimulate contractions and reduce pain during labor. The practitioner needs to follow a sequence by putting firm pressure (without massaging) for 1-3 minutes per point.
1. Spleen 6 Point (Sanyinjiao)
The Spleen 6 acupressure point is known to shorten the duration of labor and reduce pain (5).
Location: On the inside of the shinbone, four fingers width (of the pregnant woman) above the highest point of the ankle bone.
How to: Use your thumb to apply steady pressure on this point for 1-3 minutes to encourage contractions and hold for 1 minute during each contraction as pain management.
2. Pericardium 8 Point (Laogong)
It could help in inducing labor and is also called labor palace.
Location: In the middle of the palm region between the second and third metacarpals it is located at the tip of the middle finger where it touches the palm when you loosely close your fist.
How to: Use the thumb of the other hand to apply gentle pressure on the point. Put pressure on the point holding for 1 to 3 minutes.
3. Bladder 32 Point (Ciliao)
Ciliao is said to trigger labor contractions, and is useful for women experiencing back labor pain.
Location: It lies midway between the dimples above the buttocks and the lumbar spine, i.e., one index finger length above the top of the buttock crease, and approximately one thumb width either side of the spine. You can feel a small depression at this point.
How to: Apply steady pressure on both the Bladder 32 points for 1-3 minutes
4. Large Intestine 4 Point (LI4 or Hoku)
Also known as Joining Valley, this point helps in managing pain (7).
Location: On the back of the hand in between the webbing of your thumb and index finger on the middle of the muscle.
How to: Apply firm pressure using the thumb of your other hand holding for 3 minutes to invite labor and for pain management
5. Bladder 60 Point (Kunlun)
This pressure point is also useful to helping the baby engage (descend) and managing labor pain.
Location: It lies in a depression midway between the tip of the lateral malleolus (the external ankle bone) and the outer edge of the achilles tendon.
How to: Apply firm pressure using your thumb holding the point for the duration of the contraction.
Guide To Using Acupressure During Labor
- Apply pressure gradually but firmly. Hold with a steady pressure for 1 to 3 minutes.
- Breath slowly, smoothly, and deeply during the acupressure.
- Do not press longer than 3 minutes on any one point.
- Avoid pressing on cuts, wounds, varicose veins and stay away from pressing near the throat.
- Slight discomfort, warmth or tingling can be a good sign that the point is being stimulated.
There is not enough evidence to show that acupressure can speed up your labor. But it doesn’t mean that it is ineffective. It only means that further research is needed in this area. However, what is proven beyond doubt is that acupressure helps as pain management during labor.. Improtantly, it is not known to have any negative impact on the mother or the baby.
2. Hjelmstedt A et al.,; Acupressure to reduce labor pain: a randomized controlled trial; Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica
3. Mike Armour, Hannah G Dahlen, and Caroline A Smith; Acupuncture or acupressure for induction of labour; Cochrane Library
4. Mollart LJ, Adam J, Foureur M; Impact of acupressure on onset of labour and labour duration: A systematic review; Women and Birth, Elsevier
5. Yesilcicek Calik K, Komurcu N; Effects of SP6 acupuncture point stimulation on labor pain and duration of labor; Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal
6. Chung UL, Hung LC, Kuo SC, Huang CL; Effects of LI4 and BL 67 acupressure on labor pain and uterine contractions in the first stage of labor; Journal of Nursing Research
7. Fatemeh Dabiri and Arefeh Shahi; The effect of LI4 acupressure on labor pain intensity and duration of labor: a randomized controlled trial; Oman Medical Journal
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