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 labor to begin one to two weeks before or after your baby’s projected due date. Doctors consider it routine.
But an overdue, or post-term, pregnancy can leave you exhausted or anxious. Someone who’s overdue might try any and all home remedies possible (think pineapples and romance) to coax the baby into the world naturally.
Many post-term pregnant people will turn to alternative medicine to help induce labor if they want to avoid medical induction. And one popular method is acupressure.
Acupressure is the lesser-known companion to acupuncture. Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years within Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). These days, the technique has also become popular in complementary and alternative Western medicine.
During a typical acupuncture treatment, a licensed acupuncturist inserts thin needles into specific points on your body. But instead of needles, acupressure requires physical pressure to be applied to these points.
Within TCM, activating specific points on your body is thought to affect the flow of
Many people who try acupressure do it along with modern medical practices. But it’s not uncommon for acupressure to be used as a standalone treatment.
A number of studies have shown the techniques’s effectiveness for
A review of 27 studies found that accupressure also reduces the likelihood of having a cesarean delivery.
In general, experts say that the research is promising so far, but more studies are needed.
Pregnant people should check with their doctors before trying any acupressure treatments. During the first 10 to 12 weeks and final 4 weeks of pregnancy, you are more susceptible to the potential effects of 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 five major acupressure points on the body that are believed to induce labor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Research suggests accupressure on the BL32 point may reduce labor pain. Compared to the LI4 point, BL32 was slightly more effective for reducing pain in this study.
What to do: Press firmly on the point and massage, moving toward the buttock. This should be repeated for a few minutes.
Acupressure may 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.
You may also wish to find a licensed acupuncturist who can help you to accurately locate the specific accupressure points on your body. Licensing can vary state-by-state, but you may be able to find a licensed acupuncturist in your area by searching online.
Still waiting for your baby? Find other ways to naturally induce labor here.