Acupressure and labor
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.
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.
Pregnant women should check with their doctors before trying any acupressure treatments. Women during the first 10 to 12 weeks and final 4 weeks of pregnancy, are more susceptible to acupuncture treatments. Acupressure might increase blood flow to the uterus, influence hormonal responses, and stimulate uterine contractions, so it should only be used with your doctor’s approval.
There are six major acupressure 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 — SP6 is located above the ankle, on the backside of the shinbone (lower calf). It’s about the distance of four finger widths above the inner ankle bone.
What to do: Use your index finger to apply firm pressure on the point for a few seconds. Take a 1-minute break before repeating.
2. Bladder 60 point
A few inches below SP6 is bladder 60 (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 used to promote labor, ease labor pain, and reduce obstruction.
What to do: Use your thumb to apply light pressure to BL60 and massage the point for a few minutes.
3. Pericardium 8 point
Known as Laogong, or labor palace, the pericardium 8 (PC8) point is said to be 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 fingertip 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 bladder 67 point (BL67) 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 BL67 with your thumb and index finger, as if you’re pinching your toe.
5. Large intestine
The most common point in acupressure therapy, the large intestine 4 point (LI4) 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 BL67, the LI4 point is believed to induce labor. It may 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 1-minute break and start again.
6. Bladder 32 point
Bladder 32 (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.
This point is believed to trigger contractions and help relieve gynecological issues.
What to do: Press firmly on the point and massage, moving toward the buttock. This should be repeated for a few minutes.