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(5 pages total)

Page 4 - Acupressure Analgesia: Providing Pain Relief During Labour

It must be remembered that there are many reasons why problems arise during labour. These points will not effect a labour where there is a physical problem with the baby accessing the birth canal. For example in cephalo-pelvic disproportion (the baby's head is too large to fit through the woman's pelvis), malposition (the presenting part is the baby's head but it is not in the best possible position for delivery) or malpresentation (the presenting part is the baby's bottom, shoulder, face or brow).

It is worth noting however that I have received positive feedback on the usage of an ear press needle taped to BL 67, when the malposition of the baby is delaying the progression of a labour.

Several women reported that placing motion sickness bands on their feet enabled them to apply pressure to Ki 1 while walking around, producing a calming effect.

It is important that the strength of pressure applied and the choice of points are under the control of the woman. When used effectively acupressure will produce a pleasant sensation that "wears off" when the points are discontinued. They are not to be used if pain is felt on applying pressure. Support people need to use their body weight to lean into the points, otherwise they may resort to using wooden spoon handles and rolling pins to rest their thumbs.

Of the four women that used a "Tens Machine", the feedback was that acupressure was as effective, three discontinuing with the tens, opting to continue with the acupressure. Partners and support people reported feeling involved and useful, seeing themselves as having an important role in the birth.

The verbal and written feedback I receive from women, their partners and midwives echo's that of a study by Skelton and Flowerdew1, in which the effects of electro-acupuncture (points used ST 36, P6, Neima and auricular) were compared to a control group, using a pain scale during labour as well as answering a post natal questionnaire. The women reported "significantly lower pain scores, felt more in control of their labour and were generally more satisfied with their birth experience than the control group"

Initially, I was surprised that the women using acupressure were reporting such a high level of satisfaction, as I had been under the impression that acupuncture was required, usually in combination with electro-acupuncture, for effective pain relief.

It is possible that acupressure has been previously overlooked, due to it requiring prolonged intensive hands on involvement for it to maintain its effectiveness. While support people provide this, it is not so practical for midwives and doctors to do so.

Providing an illustrated booklet also means that women are given the option of choosing from a range of points, and are able to find those most effective for themselves.

In conclusion, I am convinced that for a birth without complications, acupressure is the preferred option for analgesia, coming from my own experiences, as well as the feedback of others. While I appreciated the effects of using acupuncture (both ear and body points) during the birth of our first child, it did not compare to the effectiveness of having the involvement of my partner, who provided the pain relief during the births of our following two children.

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