The last few weeks of your pregnancy can often feel like it's longer than the rest of it combined. No shoes fit your swollen feet, your belly is stretched to the max, every little movement takes about 30 minutes of pre-planning, and you have to pee every minute of the day. And, sleep? It's a thing of the past, regardless of how tired you are. You'll try just about anything to get that baby out, but do different foods, long walks, and acupressure really work? Some women swear by acupressure, but what pressure points induce labor?
According to a literature review conducted by Women and Birth, further research has to be done in order to really prove whether or not acupressure is effective in initiating labor. But, if your doctor has given you the OK to try it out, it could be worth a shot.
If you think you want to give it a go, you should also find someone who can show you how to access the relevant pressure points safely (which might be hard to do, as certified practitioners can be rare). One good first step is checking to see if you can find any professionals nearby through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Kristen Burris, Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.), Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine, and Master Herbalist of Eagle Acupuncture, tells Romper there's a few things to check on before you attempt acupressure to induce labor.
You want to make sure that you are at least 38 weeks pregnant, Burris says, and that the baby is in position with its head down. You also want to make sure you can tolerate a bit of pain. "While acupuncture tends to be painless depending on practitioner skill level and needle quality, acupressure, when done properly, is quite strong and can feel painful, especially to women who are sensitive or have fibromyalgia," she says. Once you're ready, try getting comfortable in a reclining chair, and have a few things close to you (like a wooden spoon or bottle top) that you can use to apply pressure if your fingers get tired.
Angela Le, Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.), of Fifth Avenue Fertility Wellness, tells Romper that acupressure works best when firm and deep pressure is applied in a rotary or up-and-down motion to the point for a minute or so.
So where do you actually apply pressure? The Spleen 6 acupressure point is traditionally used for delayed labor and has been known to shorten labor and reduce uterine contraction pain. In addition, it can help labor process by causing cervical ripening and strengthening the intensity of contractions. It's located approximately four fingers width above the inside of the anklebone, along your shin. Usually, using the palm of your hand will get you close to its location, says Burris.
Bladder 60, Le tells Romper, is helpful for stimulating labor and reducing pain. This point may also be helpful to encourage the baby to engage in the most ideal position if done before labor. Bladder 60 can be found on the outside of your ankle bone, halfway between the tip of that bone and the edge of your Achilles tendon.
Large Intestine 4 has many treatment benefits and traditionally has been used for delayed labor, inducing labor, abdominal pain, and increasing lactation, Burris says. To activate this point, squeeze the midpoint between the web of your hand between your thumb and pointer finger right up against the bone in your hand.
Gallbladder 21 is located on top of the trapezius muscle, directly above the nipple, says Le. This point may help descend the baby and stimulate contractions, and relieve pain. This is relatively easy acupressure point for your husband, doula or partner to access, Burris adds. "They basically have to squeeze your shoulders like they are giving you a traditional shoulder massage," she says.
"The sacral region is also helpful to relieve pain and stimulate labor progression," notes Le, "and this area can be stimulated by leaning against your labor partner's fist or a massage ball roller."
But don't get lost in figuring out the perfect point. "It is important to go with what feels right for you," Le continues. "Different points will feel good during different stages of labor. Communication with your labor partner will help them know which points to use for you."
Burris recommends checking out tutorials created by a professional as well. "Attempting to find acupuncture points to apply pressure with your fingers or instruments can be a challenge for those untrained, however, finding a video online with a skilled practitioner can aid in finding the exact locations you are trying to stimulate," Burris says.
And, as always, check in with your doctor before attempting any sort of labor induction methods at home, regardless of how much you want that baby out.
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