Can stimulating acupressure points help relieve labour pains?

What's the difference between acupressure and acupuncture - and how can the former help reduce or distract from labour and contraction pain? Here's everything you need to know about trying acupressure during labour...

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Acupressure’s one of many complementary therapies you can try during your labour – instead of, or in addition to, your standard pain relief options.

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It’s a traditional, natural Chinese treatment which you can use to help induce labour and to ease pain while you’re actually giving birth.

So, how does it work, is it safe to do it yourself, and how different is it from acupuncture?

Here’s everything you need to know about acupressure for labour…

What is acupressure?

Acupressure is a Chinese alternative medicine treatment that involves applying pressure to specific points all over the body, using the hands or elbows.

Applying the pressure in firm, downward movements (as opposed to a massage) helps release ‘blockages’ of energy in the body.

The theory is that clearing these blockages helps to reduce body pains, headaches and nausea/vomiting.

(We say ‘theory’ because there’s no concrete scientific evidence to suggest this definitely, 100% works as a form of pain relief.)

How does acupressure help during labour?

Acupressure techniques during labour can be used to help ease the discomfort of labour pains – though usually during early or 1st stage labour.

You can hire a trained professional for your labour, or you may find your birth partner can learn the proper techniques.

We’d strongly suggest doing your homework beforehand, though – and make sure to run it past your midwife.

You should definitely talk about your specific situation with a qualified acupressure practitioner beforehand, too. They may be able to recommend a course or class to help your learn these techniques safely. 

It is totally doable for non-professionals, though. Acupressure practitioner Karen Pohlner told Pregnancy Australia that one option to make it simple is to mark the woman’s acupressure points with a pen before labour, so they’re easy to locate.

Interestingly, some acupressure techniques are also used to try to induce labour, as it can help encourage “blood flow to the uterus, influence hormonal responses, and stimulate uterine contractions”, according to Healthline.

This involves stimulating the pericardium point (in the centre of your palms) and several points near your ankles and feet. 

What’s the difference between acupressure and acupuncture?

Their names give it away a bit… so, yep, acupressure and acupuncture are indeed very, very similar.

They both involve the stimulation of acupressure points all over the body, but acupuncture uses thin needles for stimulation, not just the hands or elbows.

Acupuncture for labour – how it can help

And because acupuncture involves the use of needles, you shouldn’t try it yourself at all, and you need a professional to give you the treatment if you want it.

However, with the guidance of qualified professionals and your midwife, there’s no reason why you and your partner can’t learn acupressure techniques.

Is acupressure safe to try during labour?

Yes, it’s considered safe to try acupressure during labour.

It’s also considered safe to use it to induce labour after your due date has passed, but we’d say only once you’ve been given the go-ahead from your midwife, GP or another medical professional.

Keep in mind, though, that before week 37 of your pregnancy, there are some acupressure points that you SHOULDN’T attempt to stimulate. Any that help to induce labour are an obvious no-go. 

If you’re pregnant, but not quite ready to give birth, and want to try acupressure: speak to a qualified practitioner and your GP, and go from there.

Share your experience

Did you stimulate your acupressure points during you labour? Perhaps you had treatment to help induce labour?

We’d love to hear your story if so. Get in touch in the comments below, on Facebook or on our Instagram

Images: Getty Images

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