Imagine this: You’re standing in your kitchen, ankles swollen to the size of a grapefruit, sharp pains shooting through your back, and you’re staring at the wall calendar in front of you. Your pregnant belly touches the wall gently as you look at your circled due date. You’re officially over the 40-week mark, but it seems your baby wants to stay put.
Due dates are, of course, just estimates. It’s common for most moms-to-be to go into labor one to two weeks before or after their projected due date. Doctors consider it routine.
But an overdue, or post-term, pregnancy can leave exhausted moms-to-be even more stressed out. An overdue expectant mom might try any and all home remedies possible (think pineapples and romance) to coax the baby into the world naturally.
Many post-term moms-to-be will turn to alternative medicine to help induce labor if they want to avoid medical induction. And one popular method among moms is acupressure.
What Is Acupressure?
Acupressure is the lesser-known companion to acupuncture. Acupuncture is the traditional Chinese medicinal practice of sticking thin needles into areas of your body that are believed to control a specific organ or body part. The idea is to relieve pain and prevent illness.
But instead of needles, acupressure requires physical pressure to be applied to points that run along your body’s meridian system — or life-energy path.
Many people who try acupressure — usually through a vigorous massage — do it along with modern medical practices. But it’s not uncommon for acupressure to be used as a standalone treatment.
While both acupressure and acupuncture are considered controversial, a number of studies have shown the ancient medicine’s effectiveness for reducing labor pain and anxiety.
How Do I Use Acupressure to Induce Labor?
There are six major acupuncture points on the body that are believed to induce labor.
1. Spleen 6 Point
The spleen 6 point (SP6) is considered one of the more versatile and commonly used points. It’s used for many conditions, including labor induction.
Known as Sanyinjiao — or three yin intersection — the SP6 is located above the ankle, on the backside of the shinbone (lower calf). About the distance of four fingers up the backside of the calf.
What to do: Use your index finger to apply firm pressure on the point for a few seconds. Take a one-minute break before repeating.
2. Bladder 60 Point
A few inches below the SP6 is the BL60. This point is known as the Kunlun, named after the mountain range in Asia.
The Kunlun point is located on the foot, in the depression between the ankle and the Achilles tendon. It’s known to promote labor, ease labor pain, and reduce obstruction.
What to do: Use your thumb to apply light pressure to the BL60 and massage the point for a few minutes.
3. Pericardium 8 Point
Known as Laogong, or labor palace, the PC8 point is very useful in inducing labor.
It’s located in the center of the palm. You can find it easily by making a fist and finding the point where your middle finger tip touches your palm.
What to do: Use the thumb of your other hand to apply light pressure to the point. Massage for a few seconds.
4. Bladder 67 Point
Known as Zhiyin, or reaching yin, the BL67 point is located on the outside of the end of the pinky toe, near the edge of the nail.
The Zhiyin point is believed to turn the fetus and stimulate uterine contractions.
What to do: Apply firm pressure on the BL67 with your thumb and index finger, as if you’re pinching your toe.
5. Large Intestine 4 Point
The most common point in acupressure therapy, the LI4 point is known as Hegu, meaning “joining valley.”
It’s located on the back of the hand, deep between the webbing of your thumb and pointer finger. Like the BL67 point, the LI4 point is believed to induce labor. It can also stop pain and strengthen immunity, among other problem-relieving functions.
What to do: Apply soft pressure with your thumb and massage the point for one minute, take a one-minute break and start again.
6. Bladder 32 Point
The BL32, also called the Ciliao, which means second crevice, is located in the dimple of your buttocks, which you can find by running your fingers down your spine until you reach right above your intergluteal cleft.
The point is believed to trigger contractions and can help relieve gynecological issues.
What to do: Press firmly on the point and massage, moving towards the buttock. This should be repeated for a few minutes.
Acupressure can be a great way to stimulate labor without having to use drugs or other medical techniques. But always be careful and consult with your doctor before beginning any new treatment.
Still waiting for baby? Find 11 other ways to naturally induce labor here.