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Acupressure Analgesia during Labour

In my clinicial practice, I find the use of acupressure provides consistently effective levels of pain relief for women during their labour. By comparison, acupressure displays effects during labour that are similar to the analgesic effects achieved by acupuncture-as reported in a midwifery study (Skelton and Flowerdew)1 on the effects of acupuncture when used for pain relief. Women who use acupressure report a reduction in their pain, combined with an overall sense of calmness, as well as a high level of satisfaction with their birth experience. I hope that this article will encourage practitioners to both teach and use acupressure as a birthing tool for labour.

As part of my acupuncture practice, I teach a total of eight acupressure points to both women and their support people prior to labour. This is usually in the context of one half-hour session around the 36th week of the pregnancy. The support people are shown how to locate the points, their indications and the various ways they may be used in a hands on manner. They are then provided with an illustrated booklet, which outlines the details covered in the session.

From a follow up of 74 women's birth experiences, I have compiled the following statistics: 88% of the women attempted the use of these points during their labour. Of these women, 86% found them helpful, with 62% using terms such as "excellent" and "brilliant" to describe the effects. mThe feedback I receive is very specific, suggesting that acupressure is capable of providing a positive birthing choice for both women and their support. This is not a case of "it may have been useful"-the benefits of acupressure diminish when their support people remove their hands from the points.

Following are six of the acupressure points that I teach. (The remaining two points are specific body points, and may be resourced from my acupressure booklet outlined at the conclusion of this article)


GB 21 (Jianjing)

An empirical point for a difficult labour. Chosen for its descending action to aid the first and second stages of labour.

Acupressure Technique: It is important not to just rub the skin over the area but to apply firm downward pressure with the thumb, knuckle or elbow. GB21

When using the thumbs, the pressure needs to come from the arm rather than the thumb joint.

The points are frequently used with the support person applying pressure on both shoulders together, however I know of women who have successfully used this on themselves using only one shoulder at a time.

Pressure may be applied either at the beginning of each contraction, or continual gentle pressure applied that is intensified during the contractions.


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