Acupressure for Birth

I just completed a wonderful course on acupressure for birth. I learned a few useful acupressure points in my doula training, and have found them helpful in some labors. I jumped at the opportunity to expand my knowledge with this course! I really enjoyed learning more about how my hands can be used to support a laboring client, beyond simple touch and massage.

Using acupressure for nausea on a client in transition. Photo courtesy of  Tara Ruby .

Using acupressure for nausea on a client in transition. Photo courtesy of Tara Ruby.

First, let’s briefly discuss how acupressure works. Acupressure and acupuncture are age-old therapeutic modalities, originating from ancient China. When using acupressure, we are focused on certain points of the body that correspond to certain conditions. Research shows that using these points stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. (The autonomous nervous system controls our ‘fight or flight’ responses, while the parasympathetic controls our ‘rest and digest’ functions). We know it is essential for the birthing person to be as relaxed as possible during labor, and the parasympathetic nervous system helps by slowing the heart rate, increasing gland activity, and relaxing sphincter muscles. (Remember, the cervix is a sphincter!) Evan, one of the instructors of the course, summarizes it this way: “acupressure gives us a direct line of influence into the most basic functions of the nervous system’s control over the birthing process.”

I think the most helpful things I learned in this course were how to use acupressure for postpartum and cesarean births. In the postpartum period, we can utilize points for fatigue, uterine recovery, and lactation. When supporting a cesarean birth, we can not bring things with us into the OR, and many of our comfort measures that we use in labor are not appropriate. Using acupressure allows us to help the mother to remain calm and be present during their surgical birth. It can also help alleviate some of the discomforts common to cesareans, such as headache and shortness of breath.

Acupressure is useful for many situations in labor, birth, and postpartum; everything from anxiety and nausea, to bleeding and lactation. For most conditions, there are multiple points that can be stimulated to increase the effects. It is important to be trained in acupressure, as some points can induce labor, and should not be used without permission of one’s care provider. On the other hand, using inappropriate points will not bring about the helpful effects we desire.

Further Reading:

Acupuncture or Acupressure for Pain Relief during Labor

Acupressure to reduce labor pain: a randomized controlled trial

Acupuncture or acupressure for induction of labor