I was fine until someone mentioned oysters
At 41+ weeks pregnant I am sleeping amazing, feel **mostly** stable emotionally (though I have done the ugly cry a few times), and only notice my big pregnant belly when I accidentally knock a kitten off the deck railing with it (thank you amazing chiropractic, and sorry Pepper!).
Then someone had to go and mention oysters on the half shell, and now I am counting the days until my first post-pregnancy meal. When I mentioned this to Dr. Jeremy, my chiropractor, he offered to show me some acupressure maneuvers that are thought to help induce labor. To my surprise, his demonstration turned me into an ooey gooey blob of relaxation in just a few minutes. Which is great, but the question is . . .
Does it really work?
Though the studies are limited, the answer seems to be yes. Acupressure and its cousin, acupuncture, have both been shown effective for encouraging labor and reducing discomfort during labor. (see sources below) In some cases acupressure has even been shown to reduce active labor time, yay! For me, the real question is not whether it works, but whether it is something that is right for me.
Because I have never had a medical situation which indicated the need for an induction I have let my babies choose their own birthdays. I love the thought that my little one initiates our very first interaction (sending the hormone HCG to my pituitary to say “Hey, I’m here! Please build me a comfy little home!”), then wraps up the process by triggering another hormone that says, “I’m ready to come out and meet you now!”
“Recent research has pointed out that labor actually begins when the baby’s lungs mature enough and secrete a protein called surfactant. Surfactant is essential breathing outside the womb. The release of this protein signals a cascade of hormones in the mother telling the mother’s body to initiate labor. (Dr. Carole Mendelson, Dr. Jennifer Condon and Dr. Pancharatnam Jeyasuria, 2004). As the baby prepares and lowers in the mother’s body it puts pressure on the cervix causing a release in the hormone, oxytocin. Oxytocin is a very important hormone in labor and delivery. It thins and dilates the cervix, causes contractions, and moves the baby down and out of the birth canal. It also releases breast milk and triggers nurturing and bonding feelings.” (source)
How does acupressure play into this little symphony between mama and baby? Many of the pressure points listed below are thought to encourage baby to move down into the birth canal, which would cause mama to produce oxytocin – the “labor hormone.” Unlike induction with pitocin, which is synthetic oxytocin, acupressure seems to encourage the body’s own natural processes – provided it is done past the 40th week of gestation.
Benefits of Acupressure for Labor
In addition to the production of oxytocin, this gentle encouragement may be able to assist with “promoting the release of endorphins, blocking the pain receptors to the brain, dilating the cervix, and increasing the efficiency of the contractions.” (source) Here are some of the benefits attributed to the pressure points covered below:
- shorter labor times
- reduced discomfort during labor
- help turning breech babies
- a calming effect during transition
- more efficient contractions
In other words, sometimes due to baby’s position or other less-than-ideal circumstances there can be “blockages” in the natural flow of things. For those cases acupressure may be helpful in getting things moving again and helping mama progress smoothly through the stages of labor. Obviously, no one stays pregnant forever, so eventually things move forward no matter what. However, if you are “overdue,” considering a medically indicated induction, or have a sense that something is blocking the natural progression of labor you may want to give the techniques below a try!
Foot & Ankle Pressure Points
Here are the four points covered in this video (plus what they do):
Also known as Sanyinjiao, spleen 6 has been shown in this clinical study to shorten labor time and reduce pain. Acupressure experts also say it helps to encourage labor by ripening the cervix and strengthening weak contractions.
Bladder 60 / Kunlun
Bladder 60 is considered particularly “useful for inducing labor when your baby hasn’t dropped yet.” (Source) It’s also helpful for encouraging baby to descend in the first and second stages of labor. (source)
Bladder 67 / Zhi Yin
Thought to be helpful for encouraging breech babies to reposition. Also considered generally beneficial for inducing labor.
Kidney 1 / Yongquan
According to licensed Acupuncturist Debra Betts, “This acupressure point has a useful relaxing effect and can be used at any time during abour. It has been noted as being especially useful effective in producing a calming effect during transition. It is easily accessed at this time if the woman is positioned on her knees.
- This acupressure point is especially useful during a labour where there are feelings of panic (for example, going into a labour with a unpleasant previous birth experience).
- This acupressure point can also be utilized by placing a seasickness band over the foot so that the plastic press button lies over the point. In this way the point is stimulated as the women walks around during labour. ” (source)
Note: This is the sea band mentioned above.
Upper Back & Hand Pressure Points
Large Intestine 4/ Hoku / Hegu
One of the most popular points for stimulating and supporting labor, the hoku point can make contractions more efficient and help make contractions of irregular intensity more consistent. Also very helpful for pain management.
Gallbladder 21 / Jian Jing
Can stimulate contractions. Helpful for encouraging baby to descend into the pelvis. (source)
Low Back Pressure Points
Bladder 32 / Ciliao
Helps cervix ripen and dilate. Also known for producing “a pleasant ‘anaesthetising’ effect on the strength of the contractions, noticeably ‘wearing off’ when the pressure is discontinued and building up again when recommenced.” (source)
Not Covered In The Video: Buttock Point
“This point can be used as the women enters transition, either with direct pressure or combined with strong downward massage from Ciliao BL-32 out to this point” Learn how to use it here.
Pain Relief During Labor
For more information on how to use these pressure points for pain relief during labor check out this PDF.
I am still perfectly fine waiting on Babypotamus so I’ve only toyed with these techniques. However, if he/she is still hanging around in my belly around the 42 week mark I will give them a try!
Have you ever tried acupressure or acupuncture? What was your experience?
Additional References: Smith CA, Crowther CA. Acupuncture for induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD002962. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002962.pub2. Smith CA, Collins CT, Cyna AM, Crowther CA. Complementary and alternative therapies for pain management in labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003521. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003521.pub2. Betts D Lenox S (2006) Acupuncture For Prebirth Treatment: An Observational Study of its use in Midwifery practice. Medical Acupuncture. Vo 17 No 3 Betts, D The use of acupuncture as a routine pre-birth treatment, Journal of Chinese Medicine, No.76, Oct 2004 Cardini F, Weixin H. (1998). Moxibustion for correction of breechpresentation”. Journal American Medical Association. 280:1580-1584. Cardini F, (2005)Lombardo P, Regalia AL, Regaldo G, Zanini A, Negri MG, Panepuccia L, Todros T. A randomised controlled trial of moxibustion for breech presentation BJOG. 112(6):743-7 Wei Wen, Clinical Observation on the effects of version by moxibustion, Co-operative Research Group on Moxibustion Version, 1984 Chung UL J.( 2003) Effects of LI 4and BL 67 Acupressure on Labour Pain andUterine Contractions in the First Stage of Labour. Nurs Res. 11(4):251-60