Acupressure for birth preparation can be used from 36 weeks gestation. Acupressure points are easy to use and many women find them useful both for birth preparation and during labour. From a Chinese medicine perspective we think these points are asking the body to work more effectively for you. Many of the acupressure points used in birth preparation and labour are not routinely used during pregnancy until 36 weeks gestation. If you are wanting to use acupressure during labour it is useful for to practice the point location and technique beforehand with your support people. You can also ask your acupuncturist to mark the point for you with a press needle or pen prior to labour.
Acupressure is the application of firm, direct steady pressure to a point. Ask your acupuncturist for advice on how regularly you should use the points from 36 weeks for birth preparation. As a general rule apply pressure for 1-3 minutes 2-3 times/day. I advise my clients to apply firm pressure but not so strong that they will bruise the point and make it uncomfortable for future use. During labour you might like to use the acupressure points with contractions or without contractions. Acupressure in labour should not be uncomfortable. If a point is not feeling good then you can ask your support person to slightly readjust where they are applying pressure, adjust the pressure used or try a different point instead.
You can find handouts and videos on the Debra Betts website if you would like more information about the point locations and when to use certain points.
Gallbladder 21 (GB21)
i. Action – Traditionally GB21 is thought to have a strong descending action. It is often used in birth preparation treatments, during labour or for some breastfeeding difficulties due to this downward movement. It’s contraindicated during pregnancy until you’re 37 weeks and planning a vaginal birth.
ii. Location – You can locate this point on the top of the shoulder halfway between the tip of the shoulder and middle of the spine. You can always ask your practitioner to mark the point for you with a press needle or pen. Get you support person to palpate around the area to find the point which feels the best when pressure is applied.
iii. When to use it – Your acupuncturist might use this point if your care provider has told you your baby is not yet engaged in the pelvis at a time in which they would expect it to be. It can also be used during labour to encourage your baby to move further down into your pelvis.
iv. How to use it – Follow your practitioners’ advice for how often to use this point for birth preparation but generally 1-2 times a day for 1-3 minutes would be suitable for most women. If you are using it during labour have your support person stand behind you whilst you sit on the birth ball and apply firm direct pressure to both points simultaneously with their thumbs or knickles. Feel free to explore where feels the best and have your support person apply pressure either only during the contraction or gently continuously but increasing the intensity during the contraction. And always remember if something doesn’t feel right for you don’t do it. You could try to guide your support person to find a point that feels better, adjust their pressure or just don’t use it at all. Always trust your body to know what it needs.
Large Intestine 4 (LI4)
i. Action – Traditionally LI 4 has been used from 37 weeks of pregnancy to help stimulate and strengthen contractions, and reduce labour pain.
ii. Location – You can locate this point in the middle of the muscle (fleshy area) between your thumb and first finger of your hand.
ii. When to use it – LI 4 can help to strengthen contractions so use it if you need to intensify the strength of your contractions or if they are not regular. This point can reduce pain in labour so can be used with contractions whilst you are in labour. LI 4 can be used during the second stage of labour as it can help the body to move the baby down through he pelvis and can be especially useful if you are tired and finding it difficult to push effectively.
iv. How to use it – Follow your practitioners’ advice for how often to use this point for birth preparation but generally 1-2 times per day for 1-3 minutes would be suitable for most women. You can apply unilateral pressure yourself if required or your support person can do it for you with their thumbs on either on 1 or both points, whichever feels best for you.
Spleen 6 (Sp 6)
i. Action – Traditionally Spleen 6 has been used for labour preparation to help soften or ripen the cervix. In birth Sp 6 can to help the cervix dilate and so can be used if your cervix isn’t effectively dilating when you are in the active stage of labour. Women also report this point provides effective pain relief during labour.
ii. Location – Spleen is found 1 handbreadth above your ankle bone in the inside of your lower leg. Ask your practitioner to mark it for you with a permanent marker pen or press needle during your birth preparation appointments.
iii. When to use it – Acupressure or moxibustion can be used on this point anytime after the 37th week of pregnancy if you are planning a vaginal birth. It can also be used during labour and women report that it provides pain relief when pressure is applied during contraction by their support person. It can be easily accessed if you are on all fours on the bed and your support person is standing behind you. Usually in labour both points would be used simultaneously.
iv. How to use it – Have your support person apply firm direct pressure to the point for 1-3 minutes 1-3 times/day for birth preparation or during contractions when you are in labour.