People are often desperate for labor to start toward the end of pregnancy. A survey published in 2013 found that 29% of US mothers reported attempting to induce their labor naturally.
Many methods have been used throughout history to encourage a new baby to make its entrance, including acupressure. In this post, I'll explore what acupressure is, how it works, if it's safe during labor induction, and some tips for using it.
What is acupressure?
Acupressure is the application of manual pressure, usually with the fingers or thumb, to pressure points that stimulate energy paths in the body.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners believe that pressure points lie along paths in the body called meridians. These meridians are energy pathways that connect vital organs, creating a communication system throughout the body.
Acupressure is firm, consistent pressure on specific points that remove blockages in these energy pathways. TCM practitioners have used acupressure for thousands of years to promote wellness and treat disease.
How does acupressure affect pregnancy?
The uterus is one of the vital organs that's connected by meridians. It's thought that applying pressure to specific points can stimulate the uterus and promote cervical ripening without using drugs or surgery.
Cervical ripening is the cervix's softening, thinning, and opening to prepare for labor and birth. This process usually occurs naturally and is necessary for the baby to pass through the cervix and out of the uterus.
Is acupressure a reliable form of labor induction?
The start of labor depends on hormones to trigger physical changes, and hormones are affected by nutrition, stress, sleep, and your environment. So many factors play a part in labor and birth that it's hard to isolate the variables.
The truth is: If there were any proven to jump-start labor, they would be used in labor and delivery wards worldwide. Every pregnancy is different, and babies come when they want.
Even though acupressure can't spontaneously start labor, some studies show it could be beneficial after labor has begun. For example, it may help shorten the length of labor by creating more favorable conditions in the cervix. It could also possibly help alleviate pain during childbirth.
Is it safe to use acupressure when pregnant?
Yes. There are no known adverse side effects related to acupressure for labor induction. However, you should always consult your healthcare provider before attempting labor induction of any kind.
When during pregnancy should I try acupressure?
Acupressure may be most effective when you're in labor, and the contractions are not strong or regular enough to be effective. It could also be effective if your due date has come and gone and you're still pregnant. If you're scheduled for an induction, beginning acupressure three days before could lead to a more favorable outcome.
If attempting labor induction drastically increases your stress levels, it may hinder the process more than help. Excessive stress can slow or even stall labor. In this case, relaxation methods like meditation or pregnancy massage may be more beneficial.
Which acupressure points are used for labor?
Spleen 6 is thought to shorten the duration of labor and reduce pain. It's located on the inside of the lower leg, four (of your own) finger widths above the highest point of the ankle bone.
Large Intestine 4 helps in managing pain. It's located on the back of the hand between the webbing of your thumb and index finger on the middle of the muscle.
Pericardium 8 could help in inducing labor. It's located in the middle of the palm, where the tip of your middle finger touches the palm when you loosely close your fist.
Bladder 60 could help the baby descend and manage pain. It's located in a depression on the outside of the ankle between the tip of the bone and the edge of the Achilles tendon.
How do I use acupressure effectively?
To use these acupressure points for preparing the cervix for labor, apply gradual, firm pressure for one to three minutes on each pressure point several times daily. Don't exceed three minutes at a time.
If you're using acupressure to manage pain, apply pressure for one minute or the length of the contraction. You may get different results from each pressure point, so experiment to see what works best for you.
Until Next Time
During pregnancy, I'm sure you're feeling pressure to be the healthiest you've ever been. I want to take this moment to remind you that small, consistent actions determine our health. I know you're doing your best, which IS good enough. So to help you tune out the nonsense, I created a free downloadable PDF to help you tune out the nonsense and get back to basics. So grab your copy of 5 Easy Steps to Better Health, and click the button below if you're ready to book your pregnancy massage.