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How To Induce Labor With Acupressure

on November 18 | in Motherhood | by | with 19 Comments

how-to-induce-labor-with-acupressure

I was fine until someone mentioned oysters

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Yup, this is me. Katie drew my portrait last night while I sat on my birthing ball.

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):

Spleen 6

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)

41AtkjZQaEL._SY450_ (1)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

My Approach

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

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19 Responses to How To Induce Labor With Acupressure

  1. Hannah says:

    I’ve never been pregnant, so i’ve never tried these accupressure movements.

    I just wanted to comment and let you know how thankful I am for your blog. I have followed since I was nineteen, now twentyone I am nourishing my body for a future pregnancy. I would like some advice on prenatal care while traveling. We plan to travel the country in our airstream throughout the pregnancy. Is it possible to find a national list of natural doulas or midwives that I can check in with throughout my travels. If anyone has advice on this I would appreciate it.

  2. Raia Torn says:

    I tried the hand and foot ones with baby #4. They started contractions, but it didn’t last more than 15 or so minutes. I wasn’t ready enough to be in labor to try any of the other ones. ;)

  3. Laura says:

    I would love to try this!
    Also, I’m slightly jealous of your great sleeping! I’m not sleeping good at all at 35+ weeks.

  4. Renee says:

    I was 42 1/2 weeks with my first, 41 weeks with #2, and my latest addition was 41 1/2 weeks – I tried acupressure points on the areas you mentioned and I thought they helped *some*. I just love letting my babies come when the want though and although uncomfortable it was always so nice to just let labor come when it was time :) Good luck Heather and blessings to your new addition :)

  5. I think I’m having more trouble sleeping than Heather is!

  6. Delicia says:

    I tried this after being 10 days late … now that I see this, I am not sure I am happy that I did that … but then again I think they were threatening me with “medical induction” so that is what prompted me to make this appointment … baby came the next day :)

  7. Liza says:

    I had my first baby as I turned 40 and since I was older and my fluids were dropping rapidly (and I live in a rural area when inductions can only happen during the week, and not weekends), I was told by my doc we needed to induce at 5 days after my due date. I delayed as long as I could (2 days) and did acupuncture every day and still nothing. Even after I was induced, it took me a long time to dilate. I would LOVE to say it helped me, but it didn’t. I tried EVERYTHING to get her to want to come out. Ended up with a LONG Pitocin labor and then a last minute C-section. Not my ideal birth at all and it still bothers me today, even though I have an amazing 2.5 year old now. Natural is best all around.

  8. Becky says:

    Oh, I love the topic of babies! I did the Bradley Method for my birth preparation. In his book, he says he had a patient who was pregnant for 12 MONTHS — a whole year, people! (The baby was only 6lbs, who knows if it would have even survived an induction 3 months earlier) He did not believe in inducing. So, I never induced with my babies even though I had a lot of angry people pestering me about “killing” my baby. Three years ago, on Nov 3rd, I was due with our first born. She FINALLY decided to come out and meet me (after 40 hrs of labor, mind you) on Nov 23rd. :) It’s OK to be “late”. Babies need to come on their own time.

    I think the acupressure and acupuncture would be great for encouraging a labor that’s already in progress — not for induction.

    • Wife21mom24 says:

      My poor mother had to wait and extra 23 days for me to pop out & by the time I did I was 10 lbs 11oz. I’m glad she survived :) Actually I’m glad both of us did. Also glad that so far my kids have all been relatively normal size & a tad early.

  9. Sarah says:

    I love your blog. It’s helped me so much in the past few years. I don’t know where I’ve been because I’m JUST seeing you are (very!) pregnant. I wanted to share with you an affirmation I read when very pregnant myself (my babies were 9 and 10 days past my guess date).
    “Sweet baby, I trust your wisdom. I have faith that you know better than any of us earthside. I know the veil is so thin for you that you are connected to the truth. I will not interfere with that pureness. I will only have patience, trust and faith.” ♥

  10. Christina says:

    I love the affirmation from Sarah. I have regularly used acupuncture and love the relaxing sensations I feel most of the time. Some times my mind does get away from me but usually it is a time a great relaxation for me. I tried acupuncture and burned moxa when my daughter was breach. She did not turn but moxa is most effective if started about 30-36 weeks and we were right at 36 weeks when we started. I fully believe in the healing offered with acupuncture and acupressure but have never used it to induce labor. My acupuncturist has performed it to induce labor and has one patient start labor on the table. I think everything has it’s time and I don’t think acupuncture can accelerate that time unless your body is ready.

  11. Cathy says:

    I am a labour support massage therapist, we use these points mentioned for the reasons mentioned. For labour to begin a certain threshold needs to be reached with these points in order to stimulate the positive feedback loop for the uterus to respond to oxytocin. The pressure needs to be quite firm and may even be uncomfortable. I strongly recommend anyone trying this before a medical induction.

  12. Laura B says:

    I tried acupuncture this week for my breech baby and am also doing moxibustion at home. If she ends up flipping and I get to have the natural birth I’ve been planning then I would definitely look in to acupressure to induce labor if needed! Thanks for this resource.

  13. Anna says:

    This might be a silly question, but I tend to have irregular periods, and sometimes I’d like to regulate them a little, do you think this acupressure could help along the contractions of the uterus when you feel the bleeding coming or are uncomfortable? Do you think that’s wise? Just wondering, Thank you Heather!

    • Heather says:

      I’m not sure, Anna. I would check with an acupuncturist or someone who specializes in acupressure on that one :)

      • c says:

        Anna, I have used acupuncture to regulate periods and get ovulation at day 14 with great success!!! You just have to find a good acupuncturist that specializes in reproductive issues. :)

  14. lauren says:

    Acupressure is great if you can not get to an acupuncturist but does not even compare to the results of acupuncture. Self treatment is a wonderful way to connect but to really induce labor acupuncture is the way to go!

  15. Wife21mom24 says:

    Acupuncture does work. I was miserable & had my kids rub my hands & feet (not knowing they shouldn’t since I was only in my 2nd trimester). That night I had full on contractions all night, but fortunately the baby stayed in. There’s a reason they always ask if you might be pregnant when you go to get a massage! They don’t want to cause you to miscarry or deliver too early.

  16. Helen says:

    I was determined that number was not going to be overdue so I did accupressure and I am a big believer that it works went into labour day before due date

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