Acupressure for labour
What is acupressure?
Acupressure is the manual stimulation of points on the body located on pathways that according to Eastern medicine, connect the body’s internal organs with the exterior of the body. Points are stimulated by applying pressure with thumbs, fingers, elbows, palms or blunt-tipped instruments. Western medical research has demonstrated that the effects of acupuncture points are mediated by the release of neurotransmitters and hormones – eg. beta-endorphins, serotonin, nor epinephrine and oxytocin. From an Eastern medical perspective the stimulation of acupuncture points, whether with needles or manually, improves and regulates the body’s vital energy, allowing it to function more smoothly and efficiently.
How can acupressure help during labour?
Acupressure can significantly ease pain and reduce the length of contractions during labour. It can be used to help strengthen and regulate contractions in slow or non-progressive labours, to dilate the cervix, calm anxiety, alleviate nausea and assist posterior positioned or breech babies to turn to an optimal anterior position.
What are the benefits of using acupressure in labour?
- It is safe, natural, non-invasive, effective
- Allows the woman to work with the strong sensations experienced during contractions more consciously and confidently rather than recoiling from and resisting pain.
- Does not produce the side-effects associated with pharmacological pain relief
- Allows the partner to have a useful, if not vital role.
- Is easy to learn – requires minimal instruction, no medical knowledge or massage skills or healing aptitude are needed
- Does not interfere with the woman’s freedom of movement during labour
- Can be used in any birthing environment, including water birth.
Are there any side-effects?
Pain at the site of application can occur but this can be easily stopped through partner feedback. Often however a woman will prefer some pain from strong acupressure over the pain of contraction because acupressure usually has a dramatic effect on reduces the intenstity and duration of the contraction. Apart from temporary localised bruising of the skin resulting from over-zelaous pressure has been reported, no other harmful side-effects have been reported.
Acupressure is most effective when used right from the start of labour. Acupressure may be sufficient as the sole form of pain relief, but other methods of pain relief can of course be used as well.
I offer tuition in acupressure in labour with you and your birth partner from 36 weeks, in a 1.5 hour session. You will receive a booklet with the locations of the acupressure points and their uses as reference that you can use to practice prior to the birth.
If you would prefer self-instruction you can find resources here: https://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/acupressure/